Newschannel5 brings water department to studio for live chat

Water service department called to NewsChannel5

CLEVELAND - Dozens of complaints are sent to NewsChannel5 about the Cleveland Division of Water every year.

A large majority of the complaints are from consumers who claim they couldn't get any answers from the water department customer service team.

In response, 5 On Your Side invited a team of water department customer service experts to NewsChannel5 studios for a live customer service forum, which will air Thursday during Live On 5.

5 On Your Side also invited 30 consumers, who have sent emails to newsnet5.com about their water department billing frustrations over the past couple of months.

Consumers will get personal one-on-one service during NewsChannel5's live broadcast, as water department customer service representatives use their computers to tap into the department's billing database.

NewsChannel5 will also conduct a live customer service Web chat on newsnet5.com from 5 to 6 p.m. During the chat, consumers can receive general customer service information and file their water department complaints.

Thousands of consumer complaints have flooded water department customer service representatives over the past year, after the water department reported 60,000 water bills were held in limbo and more than 16,000 water meters were reported broken or inaccurate last summer.

The Cleveland City Council Public Utilities Committee is now holding a series of hearings in order to help improve customer service.

"We are working diligently with Mayor Jackson and his directors to turn around customer service," said Utilities Committee Chairman Kevin Kelley. "We need to address the issues raised by our residential and business customers."

NewsChannel5 has received four dozen consumer complaints about the Cleveland Division of Water since last November.

The Cleveland City Council utilities committee has been meeting since March of 2010, working to get the water department to meet a specific set of customer service benchmarks -- benchmarks water department leaders said are being met.

Since July 2010, the Cleveland Division of Water reports customer service wait times have been reduced from 45 minutes to an average of 2 minutes per phone call. The number of broken water meters have been reduced to less than 2,300 and the number of missing, or pending water bills have been reduced to just 493 as of April 15.

5 On Your Side asked utility committee chairman Kevin Kelley some key questions about future improvements in water department customer service.

"We're going to look at every dollar spent in the Cleveland Division of Water, we're going to look at every aspect of the operation," Kelley said.

5 On Your Side is committed to keeping you updated on progress at the Cleveland Division of Water, a utility that serves 1.5 million consumers in 70 Northeast Ohio communities.

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This story is the sixth story in a series of stories newsnet5.com will be producing concerning problems and solutions at the Cleveland Division of Water over the next two weeks.

Coming up Thursday on Live On Five, Cleveland Division of Water customer service experts will be in studio to help consumers, and will also conduct a live chat right here on newsnet5.com starting at 5 p.m.

Then, join us Thursday night for NewsChannel5's full investigation into customer service problems at the Cleveland Division of Water on NewsChannel5 at 11 p.m.

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