Affected Vectren customers deserve good service

Businesses provide many things: Goods and services that people can buy, jobs and income for employees and property taxes for local governments.

But probably the most important thing a business can provide is good customer service.

Vectren, a large natural gas supplier serving customers in Bartholomew County and elsewhere, is being reminded of that based on backlash from recent billing mistakes.

Many of its customers were shocked and outraged by surprisingly high monthly gas bills.

At least one contracted meter reader is known to have submitted inaccurate readings this winter for at least 450 Vectren natural gas customers in the Columbus area. Bills that were too low in the coldest-weather months resulted in exceptionally high bills — three or four times as much — for March.

The number of affected customers is likely to grow considering that the meter reader who made the mistakes had 7,700 meters to read on his route.

Some Vectren customers who contacted the utility to complain were told they should have known their bills were too low. However, the same goes for the utility, which should have caught the errors before bills were sent.

Fortunately, it’s good to see Vectren owning up to this problem and putting on its customer service hat — beyond working with affected customers on payment plans.

The utility has planned a public meeting for 6 p.m. May 7 at Columbus City Hall, 123 Washington St. Vectren North’s president will attend, as will other company employees, and the purpose is to apologize, explain what happened and answer questions.

Apologizing is an important and needed step toward resolution. The meeting also will give customers a chance to be heard and get answers for their questions.

Some still believe they shouldn’t be held responsible financially for a higher-than-normal billing statement, making up for prior months when customers were apparently underbilled. Certainly, all will want to hear that this won’t happen again and learn what steps will be taken to prevent such errors in the future.

Vectren has a lot work to do to recapture the support and confidence of affected customers, but the public meeting is a good step in the right direction.

If you go

WHAT: Public meeting by Vectren representatives

WHEN: 6 p.m. May 7

WHERE: Columbus City Hall, 123 Washington St.

WHY: To apologize to customers for an error that led to high gas bills, to explain the issue and to answer questions

WHO: Vectren North President Mike Roeder will be present, as will other company representatives.