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Report: IID has ‘deficiencies' in customer service

April 13, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

The Imperial Irrigation District needs to improve its customer service to attract developers and better serve customers, according to a report presented to the IID board this week.

Local business consultant Tom Topuzes, hired by IID General Manager Jesse Silva to review IID's economic development processes, said the district has "deficiencies" in customer service that need to be addressed.

In his economic development initiative report to the board, Topuzes outlines a series of steps IID should take to better serve the public and meet needs of developers.

Topuzes met with city leaders, developers, county officials and farming community representatives in both the Imperial Valley and the areas in Coachella Valley served by IID.

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Topuzes told the board it needs to improve policies and procedures that have become outdated and stand in the way of economic development.

Topuzes said this morning, "Overall it seems the management style has not kept up with the times."

In the report, Topuzes states, "Several customer service deficiency areas could be resolved with simple procedural changes. Other customer service issues appear to be the result of deep-rooted, long-held IID attitude toward customer service."

Topuzes adds, "Resolution of what has been seen by IID customers as an ‘arrogant' approach to customer service would require process and procedural review and sustained management."

Topuzes laid out five steps the district should take to better meet the needs of customers and improve economic development efforts.

· The board should establish and adopt a policy that supports economic development activities in IID's service area.

· The board should establish and adopt an economic development policy that authorizes staff to provide a variety of economic development power rates within a set of parameters.

· The board should establish and adopt a policy that allows builders and or developers to receive an economic development incentive that reduces or eliminates the initial cost of providing power service to new developments, subdivisions, industrial parks or similar new economic development areas.

Such incentives could be recaptured through long-term energy contracts.

· The board should authorize and give direction to establish a strategic plan manager with the specific responsibility and authority to support the implementation of the strategic plan.

· The board should adopt and give direction to implement a continuous improvement plan.

Topuzes said he thinks it would take the district up to three years to review its policies and procedures and determine what changes should be made.

He said the district might want to consider bringing in a consultant who would work with each department to bring about changes.

Topuzes said as an example perhaps IID could look at its work schedule, which calls for the district to be closed every other Friday. He said the board might want to change that so at least some customer service areas are open to the public on those Fridays.

He added some IID procedures call for developers to go through 10 steps when it might be possible to cut that to three steps.

Director Rudy Maldonado said he was not surprised by the findings.

"It confirms my worst fears that the IID's business culture of today is not going to meet the needs of tomorrow," he said, adding, "We need to improve our customer service at all levels."

Maldonado said the board will use the report to develop a new economic development plan.

"The board's challenge is to look at the policies and procedures to make sure the district is prepared for tomorrow and the future," he said.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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