Yes I love Bacolod and the Philippines but nowhere is perfect! Customer Service Lip Service came to mind and the title inspired by a sign outside of the CENECO building here in Bacolod. It read ‘Customer Service 24/7.’

CENECO is the Central Negros Electric Cooperative and provides power to the homes and businesses of the region. I challenge it on its claims about customer service because I experienced the fact it either sucks or is non-existent.

First, you need to understand what happened. I rent a 2-story town house and was just about to shower last Monday morning when the electricity failed. I thought another brownout, but I was wrong. We had been disconnected.

I pay the bills but no one had bothered to tell us we were about to be disconnected over an outstanding payment. My landlord’s agent knew for she texted us to inform us. You see the system works this way: the landlord owns a block of six town houses. I live in one of them. CENECO sends the monthly bills for all six to the caretaker who lives in the same street as the town houses just a couple of hundred yards away. He then delivers them by hand to each home except we didn’t get one for March.

Zabrina queried this several times but the caretaker simply said he hadn’t received the bill. Then on April 10 we were disconnected with no warning to us, yet the landlord’s agent, and presumably the caretaker, had advance knowledge but didn’t bother to notify us!

That’s Part One of the saga and the blame is not entirely allocated to CENECO.

Part Two is all about CENECO and the ‘suckiest’ customer service system that surely places it into the higher echelons of ineptitude.

There is no online system for payments and re-connection processes. The consumer, me, has to go the the head office in downtown Bacolod. What a nightmare! The lines are long and the waiting room is hot. They operate a paper ticket system and you are allocated your number. Then you wait. If you’re lucky you find a seat but there are more people than seats so ….

The first port of call is with the teller behind her bullet proof screen – they only accept cash, hence three armed security guards. A quick calculation in my head revealed they must take over PHP 1 million a day!! A further thought was why were the security guards armed with pump action shotguns in such an enclosed space with so many people? In the event of an armed heist, mayhem would be the result.

Anyways, I reached the teller and gave her the money owed. She was a study in indifference.  You know, the zombie look. No communication at all, not even eye contact. She seemed to be addicted to barbiturates. Man! She was on another planet.

No! That is not her. The person in that image has expression on their face. Not so with the CENECO  zombie lady.

Gripping the newly acquired receipt I then made my way to the re-connection clerk. She was slightly more alive than her erstwhile colleague, the zombie. And, she did tell me where to go to complain. I went there and complained.

Before I was given that information, I did see a Consumer Welfare desk but it had a ‘lunch break’ sign on the window. The employee on her break was sat in full view of the public. She applied her make-up and teased her hair oblivious to customers who were waiting for her to finish her break.

The complaining was done in an open plan office and the lady who dealt with my complaint was human. She was articulate, smiled and made eye contact. I have a theory about workers who are shielded from customers by glass. You can guess what it is.

She also agreed to bill us directly in future in an effort to avoid a repetition of this fiasco.

I know nothing of the workings of an electricity or utility cooperative. But, it’s my understanding that part of the cooperative is the consumers. You know, those people who pay the bills and pay the wages of the zombies as well as the intelligent, compassionate and competent CENECO employees.  I hope there is more than one in that second category.