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Public Utilities

How We’re Improving Services for Our Public Utilities Customers

Revised March 2024

The City of San Diego is committed to improving service to our Public Utilities Department customers.

Over the past five years, we’ve implemented changes to address longstanding systemic problems to improve billing processes and the quality of service for the 283,000 household and business accounts we serve. These include changes in leadership, adding staff, enhancing training and providing customers faster and more convenient access to our services with online and phone system improvements and technology upgrades.customer service representative

Background

In 2019, the Public Utilities Department conducted an internal assessment of its customer service call center. This assessment identified key challenges including:

  • Outdated technology for call center phone system.
  • Processes that lacked efficiency.
  • Inadequate training programs for employees on how to resolve both technical and non-technical issues.
  • Staff vacancies and need for more effective management oversight.

Public Utilities was the focus of a 2018 Performance Audit of Water Billing Operations, which focused on water meter reading, billing and communication. All recommendations made in that audit have now been implemented.

Improvements to Customer Service

Over the past year, Public Utilities has made significant progress in improving online access to water and wastewater services, modernizing our phone system and recruitment and providing enhanced training of customer support staff.

We’ve heard from our customers that they want to access services online when it’s convenient for them. Public Utilities launched new webforms allowing San Diegans to submit requests and have those issues resolved within one to two business days.

Working closely with the City’s Department of Information Technology, Public Utilities launched a modernized phone system last year. This new system allows for more efficient call resolutions.

Wait times have decreased for people calling the Customer Service Center. In March 2023, callers were on hold for up to two hours. But as of February 2024, call wait times have dropped to an average of 25 minutes. We continue working on reducing wait times to the industry standard of no more than five minutes.

Our Team

Investing in our employees is crucial to improving the overall customer service experience.

Over the past year, the Public Utilities Department has dramatically improved its ability to fill vacant positions and we continue to hire for new positions across the department, including water meter readers and customer service representatives.

Thanks to pay increases, the return of pension benefits and the Mayor's commitment to filling vacancies, we've been able to grow our team and improve our operations.

We continue looking for qualified people to apply for several positions and join a diverse team of professionals working to bring quality services to our customers. Anyone interested can find more information on the Join Our Team webpage.

Improvements to Technology

blue and yellow cablesPublic Utilities is developing a new online customer self-service portal that integrates with the billing system, allowing customers to complete the most common service requests quickly and conveniently from a computer or mobile device. The first phase of the new self-service portal is expected by spring 2024.

In addition, 40 more technology enhancements are in the works to better serve residents and businesses. These include:

  • New contact center software that will route calls more efficiently to help decrease call wait times and track metrics to continually improve service.
  • A new software interface for employees with easy-to-follow workflows to make service more efficient, resulting in fewer calls and emails to the contact center – and faster service for customers who do contact us.

A citywide deployment plan is being developed for Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), also known as “smart meters.” Smart meters allow water usage data to be transmitted electronically directly to our network as well as to customers. Smart meters improve the reliability of water meter readings and empower customers to understand and adjust their usage. The plan will be completed this year.

Update to current billing practices:

Public Utilities now notifies customers immediately when their account billing is delayed for any reason.  

Currently, the billing system automatically holds a bill for investigation if the amount of water used is significantly outside the typical range of a customer’s historic usage. Contributing factors may include:

  • Manual water meter misread.
  • Meter malfunction.
  • Water leak on the property.
  • Legitimate changes in a customer’s water usage.

When accounts require staff investigation, the bills are delayed until the investigation is resolved.

Once resolved, the bills that accumulated during the investigation are issued, and the customer is contacted with details of the investigation.

If during the investigation it is determined that there was a water leak on the property during the billing period, customers can contact the Public Utilities Department at 619-515-3500 and request an adjustment. General information about leak adjustments can be found on the Billing Adjustments page.

It’s important to note that approximately 90% - 98% of customer bills are sent on time. While receiving more than one bill at once can seem overwhelming, customers can pay off their balance over time with no penalty or interest charged. 

Keeping You Informed

customer serviceMore detailed information about customer accounts is now on the City’s website, including: 

If you have concerns about your water bill, call the Customer Support Division at 619-515-3500, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Phone wait times are generally shortest first thing in the morning. You can also make an online request to have a Field Representative come out to your property and investigate your water meter, including getting a current read on the meter. 

The Public Utilities Department strives to serve and support San Diegans. As we continue to improve our processes, we hope you will learn more about our commitment to maintaining water quality, reducing sewer spills, investing in our infrastructure and providing a reliable, sustainable water supply for the future.