Southern California Edison is investigated for doctoring customer service surveys

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Minnesota Public Radio – Marketplace

DAVID BROWN, anchor: How’s customer service these days? Survey says–oh, who can trust surveys anymore? We’d like to be more optimistic, but MARKETPLACE’s Lisa Napoli reports some are being a bit too optimistic.

LISA NAPOLI reporting: Suppose you did a customer service survey and only polled your co-workers and friends? Or erased the names of people who’ve had unhappy experiences with your company? That’s what a dozen or so staffers of Southern California Edison have been doing since the late ’90s. The excellent scores for customer service won the utility $28 million in bonuses. Douglas Heller runs the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. He wonders if there are other shady goings-on.

Mr. DOUGLAS HELLER (Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights): Where else is this happening? Is this happening? And if so, where? And is it effecting the rates people pay? Is it effecting safety?

NAPOLI: Heller has another question. Did management pressure make the employees doctor the surveys? Steve Blackledge of the California Public Interest Research Group wonders why a company would oversee its own customer service survey in the first place. It took an employee whistle-blower, who wrote an anonymous letter to management, to reveal the scandal.

Mr. STEVE BLACKLEDGE (California Public Interest Research Group): Anytime that a company touts their consumer satisfaction record, it–it does raise a number of questions, such as who did the survey? Are these numbers legitimate? And do we trust them?

NAPOLI: In an age of databases, compiling information is easier than ever, and so is doctoring it. While this situation is being investigated, Edison itself has asked the Public Utilities Commission to halt proceedings for another $10 million in performance bonuses. I’m Lisa Napoli for MARKETPLACE.

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