PowerPoints, February 2004

New technology improves customer service

Mississippi Power recently upgraded its customer outage reporting system to make it more efficient and informative. The system’s call-in capacity has been doubled and new options have been added to better assist customers.

“We’re always trying to find ways of improving service to our customers, especially based on their comments and feedback.” said Kurt Brautigam, company spokesman. “We know many customers want to talk with a person when doing business, and that’s always possible, but reporting an outage can be done fast and easily with the touch of a few buttons.”

Customers who call the 800-ITS-DARK outage number will now respond to a series of simple questions to verify the location of the outage. Based on the location given and other information available at the time, the caller can be told how long the outage might last and will be asked if they’d like to be called back when the company believes their power is restored.

“We know it’s helpful for customers to have as much information as possible about having their service restored,” Brautigam said. “This new technology will allow us to pull together whatever we know about a situation, such as a storm that has caused numerous outages in the same part of a town. If a customer calls in from that area, we can tell them we know about the outage and how long we think it will take to restore service. Messages will be updated as new information becomes available.

“The automated call back feature is good because we may think everyone in an area is back in service after we’ve made the major repairs, but something minor may still be affecting a handful of customers. When they get a call from us asking if their service is restored, they can let us know that we still need to see to their problem.”

New technology has also improved another source of information for Mississippi Power customers—on the Internet. The bill payment section of the company’s website at www.mspower.com offers customers access to more information about their bills and electric consumption.

“We’ve seen a steady increase in the number of customers who pay their bills on line, as well as those requesting information or even reporting outages,” said Brautigam. “It’s a very easy, customer-friendly way to do business with us whenever it’s most convenient.”

Budget Billing benefits customers

Mississippi Power’s Budget Billing program is a service designed to take the guesswork out of paying electric bills by adding month-to-month stability.

The concept behind Budget Billing is simple: Mississippi Power totals the amount of electricity use by the customer over the most recent 12 month period and divides by 12. The resulting average will be the amount of the customer’s power bill each month. If there is a significant change in power usage, then the monthly bill will be automatically adjusted accordingly.

“For residential and small commercial business customers, the program offers a great advantage,” said Kurt Brautigam, Mississippi Power spokesman. “With Budget Billing, the customer doesn`t have to worry about peak heating and cooling costs throughout the year.”

Budget Billing is not new at Mississippi Power—more than 10,000 customers are currently enrolled in the program. The company is trying to make more customers aware of the program’s advantages.

“It’s just one more way we’re able to better serve our customers,” Brautigam said. “It gives them a way to better manage their money.”

For more information, customers may call 1-800-532-1502 or go on line at www.mspower.com.

Mississippi Power ranks first in Customer Value

For the fourth year in a row, Mississippi Power ranked first in overall customer value, according to a survey of Southern Company customers and customers of 16 other utilities in the nation.

Overall rankings are based on survey results from the three customer groups—residential, commercial and industrial. The customer value measure includes customers’ responses to a variety of questions relating to areas such as employee competence, pricing, reliability, image and other service issues.

For the past eight years Mississippi Power has continued to outperform its peers on the overall survey, ranking either first or second.

“It is extremely difficult to consistently maintain such high customer scores, but once again, our employees defied the odds,” said Mississippi Power spokesman Kurt Brautigam. “These results are a direct reflection of their consistent work ethic and dedication to meeting customers’ needs.”

Mississippi Power ranked first in the peer group with general business customers, second with residential customers, and third with large business customers.

Mississippi Power recognized as top United Way giver

Mississippi Power’s employees reached a new level in giving to United Way this past year, contributing more than $300,000 to various chapters throughout the company’s service area. Combined with a match from the Mississippi Power Foundation, the company’s total contribution for the year was $404,967.

“Our employees have always shown remarkable generosity in their personal giving over the years,” said Kurt Brautigam, company spokesman. “But this year, they’ve exceeded all expectations.”

More than 80 percent of the company’s 1,300 employees participated in the campaign in 2003.

“It seems the United Way and other charities have seen decreases in giving since September 11, 2001,” Brautigam said, “so it was exciting to see our goals exceeded by 20 percent. All of the company coordinators did a great job of getting employees involved. They all know how important the agencies funded by United Way are in the various communities we serve.”

Winter energy saving tips

With winter temperatures in South Mississippi seeming to range from moderate to extremely chilly, it makes sense to save energy with home heating. Home improvement stores feature an ever-expanding range of energy-saving products and consumers are looking for even more information.

There are lots of common sense ways people can save on their home energy bills without sacrificing comfort, convenience or money. Many energy-saving practices are inexpensive.

Among the least expensive things to do are replacing filters in heating and air conditioning units about once a month and blocking drafts under exterior doors with door sweeps or fabric draft blockers. Improving insulation in walls and ceilings can be fairly expensive, but there will be a real payback in less energy use to heat or cool a home.

There are other inexpensive steps most homeowners can take themselves.

•Repair cracks, holes or separations in ductwork with duct tape.

•Weather-strip or caulk around doors and windows.

•Keep furniture, drapes or other obstacles away from radiators and heating vents.

•Close curtains at night and on windy days.

•Use the reverse setting on ceiling fans to distribute heat down into a room.

•Set the thermostat between 65 and 70 degrees and wear warm clothing.

•Set the thermostat at about 58 degrees if you will be away for an extended period.

•Set the hot water heater at 140 degrees and wrap it in an insulation blanket if it is in an unheated space. •Close off heat in unused rooms and close the doors.

•Keep cold wind outside by closing garage doors.