Anderson said that, “I think StarTex’s service in this case was pitiful. Their customer service was pitiful and they should be ashamed of themselves.”
Ouch. Anderson went on to say:
“For a company that, before it was taken over, used to brag about their customer service, this is really, really pitiful”
Anderson further described StarTex’s customer service here as, “poor, poor, poor, poor customer service.”
I’ve been covering this space for a number of years now, and this is the first time I’ve heard a commissioner be so outspoken and blunt about their thoughts of an REPs performance. And that includes when Glacial Energy was nearly stripped of their PUC certificate and was associated with African blood diamonds. Yeesh.
Anderson goes on to touch on another interesting subject, which is how StarTex’s poor customer service ties into their purchase by massive Constellation Energy/Exelon.
“No doubt it’s because they’re now owned by a big ugly utility, as opposed to the nimble entrepreneurs,” Anderson said.
This is interesting to me for a couple of reasons. To start, it was my own initial reaction to reading about complaints. StarTex Power was THE first company in the market to build their reputation on elite customer service. They were one of (if not the) first winner of the J.D. Power Award for excellent customer service in the Texas electricity space. I once toured their very impressive in-house call-center department, which also included employees having a stake in the company. I could be wrong, but I’m guessing the massive purchase by Exelon negated that program, and probably outsourced much of the employees to their existing call center resources. Either way, the largest companies in this space that are owned by huge energy conglomerates are often noted as having the worst customer service. Anyway, the irony is rich that the pioneer of customer service in electricity is now being lambasted by a PUC commissioner.
However, the real interesting thing in Anderson’s comment is the idea that nimbler, independent entrepreneur’s offer better customer service. Considering the capacity market votes coming up, and their potential to completely squeeze out independent REPs that Anderson seems to value tremendously by these statements, makes you wonder if he has just tipped his hand. Hopefully he can convince Nelson and Marty that a mandatory reserve margin and a capacity market are disastrous for Texas electricity customers on pricing, as well as in customer service.