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The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Kokua Line column
[January 25, 2013]

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Kokua Line column

Jan 25, 2013 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- QUESTION: I tried calling the Board of Water Supply's customer service about a leak from my main waterline. I waited on the phone for 20 minutes, but no one picked up. I called another department and was told that even they couldn't get through, that they've been put on hold for 30 to 45 minutes at a time. Why can't they get another phone line It's ridiculous that even people within the same company can't reach customer service.

ANSWER: Your complaint is similar to one we received in October about not being able to get through to the Board of Water Supply (see, as well as numerous complaints to Kokua Line about not being able to contact Hawaiian Electric Co. after it switched to a new billing system.

Back in October, BWS blamed the problem on a bad economy, resulting in a lot of calls from customers asking about payment options and worried about their water being shut off.

This time, the long wait time is being tied to the agency's gearing up to implement a new "Customer Care & Billing System." "We apologize for any inconvenience customers have been experiencing due to our longer-than-normal wait times recently," said spokes woman Tracy Burgo. The agency "appreciates its customers' patience and understanding as we convert to the new system." She said the agency typically deals with 500 to 800 customers a day. But its customer service call center queue has a maximum capacity of 50 calls, and its callback queue has a 30-call maximum.

"Unfortunately, if a customer calls after a queue is maxed out, then he/she is asked to call back later, and the call ends," she said.

However, customers like you who call about meter leaks or water system emergencies should press "1" on the phone menu, Burgo advised. "Usually, there is no wait time in the 'Trouble Line' queue." Meanwhile, she said BWS is replacing its outdated Customer Accounting System, installed in the 1990s, with a new system "to ensure continued and effective service." But this requires training customer service representatives, based at the Beretania Street headquarters.

"Unfortunately," Burgo said, training reduces the number of employees available to staff the phone lines, lengthening call wait times by 30 to 60 minutes.

She said the agency has been working to reduce the waiting by hiring and training more customer service representatives; dedicating some of them to taking payments only; and directing nonbilling questions to the Communications Office.

"We hope that over time these efforts will result in shorter call wait times and improved customer service," Burgo said. "We will also continue to look for new ways to improve customer service." OTHER OPTIONS Burgo presented several options for getting through: --Callback. Select this option, then enter your telephone number. You retain your position in the queue without having to wait on hold.

--Online Bill Viewing. Sign up for this at

--Online Customer Service Request forms. Get request forms to start or stop service, update account information or sign up for automatic bill payment on the above website. You can electronically send the request to the BWS or print out the form and mail it in.


MAHALO To Sheila Bing and Daws Dymond, TheBus drivers on the A Express route, for helping me get my bus pass back. Everyone went above and beyond the call of duty: from Sheila calling dispatch, dispatch calling my previous driver, Daws, to Daws dropping the pass off in Pearl City after his route finished, to Sheila dropping me and my brother off near the Pearl City terminal, and all the desk people in Pearl City who facilitated the pickup. Made my day! -- Linda Knox ---- Write to "Kokua Line" at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email

___ (c)2013 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Visit The Honolulu Star-Advertiser at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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