BusinessDay

PHED; Journey to number one Disco possible?

Each of the 11 electricity distribution companies in Nigeria today in the power sector is autonomous. In that sense, competition is allowed. The Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED), says it wants to be the number one energy disco in Nigeria and the world. They are entitled to their ambitions, but what would be the hallmark or benchmark of such a title?

Their customers would expect regular supply. There must be justice *transparency) in billing which can only com via a prepaid metering system where a customer bills himself by deciding how much to consume per month. The third most important is prompt attention to complaints because they must occur, anywhere in the world.

Final point: There must be zero tolerance to connivance with their personnel. It would not mean that their staff members would not be tempted by offers from thieving consumers out there but there must be demonstrable evidence that PHED people don’t do a deal.

How is the PHED responding to the above important standpoints? First, the company brought in Henry Ajagbawa, a doctorate degree holder in accounting and management expert. He sounds brainy but very tough. He sounds like a man that won’t tolerate vices such as indolence, laxity or dull thinking anywhere near him; let alone the mention of fraud.

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It is upon this plank that other factors seem to lean. Adequate power supply: The new CEO seems crazy on this. PHED scratched for funds to begin a power plant project that ought to be executed by TCN, just to create 60 MW power and send at least 48 MW to Rumosi sub-station. This began on August 31, 2020, to power western PH so that Afam could keep powering eastern PH.

Billing justice: PHED has shown determination to install meters to their 500,000 customers which may rise to 1000. This way, the argument of estimated billing would be a thing of the past. The moment a customer knows he is paying for exactly what he consumed, even if tariff goes up, he at least would be glad that nobody was robbing him. This looks possible if N40Bn could meet PHED. To boost this hope, there is this $200m fund on the way at the national level to support meter scheme; also the FG just gave waiver on importation of meters.

Let’s look at energy theft before we continue. The biggest threat to the discos and to the entire power sector is energy theft including meter bypass. This is said to be worse in the Niger Delta; remember militants, kidnappers, refuseniks who blatantly say they won’t pay, etc. On this, PHED says it is soon to deploy smart meters that will report back if any tampering occurs. The headquarters can disconnect the customer from the base. PHED is said to be ahead in this plan, but trust others to go for it, too. Tribunals to try offenders instanta may help.

Now complaints! PHED has rolled out what it calls IVR (Interface Voice Response). This means 24/7 call service with integrated services such as the ability to identify workers, pay bills, borrow token, do research on the platform, etc.

On August 31, this technology was unveiled to the world where about 12 call agents would be ready to handle all problems from calling customers. It was a day the customer care manager, Angela Ajere, shone like a thousand stars selling her unique skills and those of the PHED.

The CEO, Ajagbawa, who was represented by the GM (general services), made it clear that Rome, truly, was not built in a day. “We have taken that challenge and we are gradually moving towards our own Rome.”

He went on: “Yesterday, in collaboration with the Transmission Company of Nigeria and the ever-supportive Rivers State Ministry of Power, our Rumuosi 48 MW project was commissioned. Today, we are taking another giant step in launching our State-of-the-Art 24/7 call centre.”

He said ATM is commonplace in Nigeria now as it was in the UK 20 years back. So shall Nigeria continue to advance in technology and solve most of its present problems in service delivery sphere? “Today, we are telling our esteemed customers that you really do not have to come physically (especially the peculiar times we live in, COVID -19 pandemic) to get your issues resolved; from payment transaction to complaints of whatever magnitude, we have it all sorted out in just this small room from the comfort of your homes and offices.

“Standardising our call centre with the interactive voice response (IVR) will not only enhance customer satisfaction but will also increase efficiency in three ways”. He named them.

So, is PHED close to number one? The answer is in your palms.

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