Embattled Central Maine Power Co., which has been under fire for poor service from ratepayers, regulators and politicians alike, said Tuesday that it has hired a former Maine lawmaker and will air a television ad campaign in efforts to improve the company’s culture and reputation.
Dawn Hill, a six-term legislator, will become CMP’s new “customer champion” with a mission to identify problems and find ways to help CMP improve customer service. Hill served four terms in the Maine Senate and two in the Maine House. She was a former chair of the appropriations committee.
“This is an opportunity for us to turn the page, to let customers know we’ve heard them. We need to make changes,” said CMP CEO and President Doug Herling. “Hill has a lot of experience as a change agent. She will work directly with me and Linda Ball, our new vice president of customer service.”
Hill will start in January as a full-time consultant with a six-month contract that is renewable for another six months, he said. Herling declined to comment on how much Hill would be paid.
Herling said Hill’s hiring is part of a plan to shift the culture at CMP and rededicate the company to putting the customer first. Hill will examine the company’s processes, Herling said.
“We wanted someone with a fresh set of eyes, not someone with a bias,” he said. “[Hill] has put together a proposal that is encompassing and has laid out a timeline of the different areas of the company she’d like to better understand, including getting into the field. It’s a broad-based proposal.”
Another component of the new Power On campaign, which launches Tuesday with educational sessions with employees, includes a “customer pledge” that will be rolled out to all employees as an orientation to CMP’s customers. CMP has 850 employees in customer service and in the field in 18 locations, plus another 150 from parent Avangrid based in Portland.
CMP also will launch a widespread ad campaign Wednesday morning with 30-second and 60-second TV spots. The ads eventually will go on the radio. It posted the ad on Youtube on Tuesday.
Herling said the ads are about the resilient spirit of Mainers and CMP’s customers. They also talk about how important electricity is in everyone’s life and how CMP employees are a part of that.
CMP has invested about $500,000 so far in the Power On campaign, Herling said.
The Garrand Moehlenkamp branding agency in Portland designed the ads.
Herling said the campaign is a direct response to all the criticism the company is currently facing.
The utility has been the subject of a potential class action lawsuit, efforts by legislators to set up a consumer-owned utility to replace it, regulatory investigations and ongoing consumer complaints.
Its recent slide dates back to the October 2017 windstorm, which coincided with CMP’s installation of a new billing system. Thousands of customers complained of unusually high bills following the storm and start of the new system. Although CMP has said it has taken measures to get to the bottom of the complaints, they have persisted.
In September the Maine Public Utilities Commission, which regulates CMP, found that high electricity use, not the CMP billing system, was at the root of the problems. But days later, Maine’s Office of the Public Advocate said its own audit found continuing problems with CMP’s system.
The commission plans to issue reports on its investigations into CMP’s rates and the customer service and billing issues on Jan. 9, and to deliberate those cases on Jan. 30.
In August the utility put forward several initiatives to repair its damaged image, including a new $6 million fund to help ratepayers with billing complaints and a partnership with Efficiency Maine to help customers reduce energy costs.