Thursday, April 22, 2010

PEPCO, Still For The Birds

Parrots 1PEPCO, why do you hate me so? I am, by all rights, one of your most loyal customers. I run a space heater well into the summertime. Sometimes even at the same time as an air conditioner. I have more computers in my house than IBM. Was it the compact flourescent light bulbs? The insulation? What did I do?

It has been a year since my last run-in with PEPCO, so I suppose it was just going too well.

I have had my electric bill set to "auto-pay" since I am incompetent when it comes to administrative matters. This ensures that the bill will be paid on time, and the power will keep flowing. A week ago, I noticed that the emails they send me, advising me how much was going to be automatically deducted, seemed to be getting larger and larger. How did I use $409.22 worth of electricity in March? I dutifully logged on to my PEPCO online account, only to discover that my bill was no longer being paid automatically.

PEPCO had revised their online account system, apparently, and turned off my auto-bill-pay. If they told me about this, I obviously missed it. I went through an annoying, painfully slow process to basically entirely re-register again and tried to pay my bill online.

The web site refused to accept my payment, simply saying "there was an error." I double-checked and triple-checked every detail. My bank account and routing numbers. Name and address. Everything was right to the last apostrophe.

So I wrote an email to their online service center with the following question:

I have tried to pay my bill using your new online system, and it will not accept my payment. After I enter my bank account and routing numbers, and click "pay," it says "there was an error and your payment could not be processed." Can you please help me? What might be causing this problem?

After receiving no response for two days, I paid PEPCO using the relatively archaic "online banking" method, in which my bank pushes a payment to them, instead of them retreiving one automatically. But I wept to myself slightly, as it meant I would now have to remember to do something each month. I secretly hoped PEPCO would respond and return me to the joy of automatic deduction.

Then today, eight (8) days after my original inquiry, PEPCO responded! I had the following message in my inbox.

Date: Thu, Apr 22, 2010 at 8:03 AM
Subject: Pepco On-line - Contact Us

Thank you for contacting Pepco. I apologize for the delay in
our response and for the difficulty you have experienced with
our web site. I have requested the password for your Energy
Know How/Web Account to be reset. You will receive the information
via e-mail. When you get the e-mail, click the link in the e-mail
to re-enable the web account.

If further assistance is needed, please contact us again at


Internet Representative
Customer Care


Connie, I appreciate your response to my inquiry. But did you actually read it? Nowhere did I say I was having trouble logging in - in fact it should have been absurdly obvious that I could log in since I was trying (and failing) to pay my effing bill!

Ah, PEPCO, how do I hate thee.

Resolution: Pepco Telephone Support Is Actually Good

Obviously, at this point I had no choice but to call them or have my electric service terminated. I steeled myself for what I assumed would be a long and frustrating experience.

The opposite was true. After being on hold for a mere 3 minutes, I spoke to someone who was knowledgable and helpful. The nice woman did the following things:

  • Combined my two pepco accounts into a single log-in
  • Knew why the online payment wasn't working and told me what to do to fix it (use Internet Explorer... you'd think that if their system wasn't cross-browser compatible they would mention that somewhere on the site)
  • Walked me through the entire process to be sure everything was working
  • Waived the late fees

Honestly, that was one of the better customer-service experiences I've ever had. If only their Internet customer service (and IT department) was as good.


lacochran said...

I love a happy ending. :)

Jamie said...

Yes, it was all very happy. Except for the $750 in total that I owed them since they stopped auto-deducting my payments. That did not make me very happy.

Andre Francis said...

Jamie --

I'm Andre, Pepco's Social Media Rep. I'd like to start by saying, I'm glad you were able to finally get everything resolved. Also, if you or your readers ever have any other issues, I'd be glad to help. The 2 best ways to contact me are email or twitter: or

Have a great Earth Day!

Jamie said...

Andre, thanks for your reply. It always makes me feel warm and fuzzy when I complain about someone, and they take the time to let me know that they are listening. Seriously.

I don't expect perfection, especially not from big organizations, but the mere act being responsive, and demonstrating an interest in communicating with customers, is 90% of the solution. It's much appreciated.

DCRA recently made my head explode by having a very thoughtful representative participate and answer questions on popular blogs, and launching a very helpful new web site for landlords. Now PEPCO is reading local blogs too? Can world peace be far behind? This is awesome.

And I can't believe I forgot it was Earth Day. Did I say something about running a space heater and the A/C at the same time? TOTALLY KIDDING.

Lee said...

Uncle Pepco loves you, Jamie.

Chris said...

Oh PEPCO, how you play with our emotions!!!!

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