Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Q&A: New MLGW CEO J.T. Young

Posted on 06/04/2018
By Leah Kraus, Digital Content Coordinator

In January, Mayor Jim Strickland appointed J.T. Young to lead MLGW. He is the 11th president of the company and started working in mid-March. Today, we're sitting down with him to get to know him as well as his goals.

You’ve been on the job for a couple of months now. Tell us how it’s going?
So far, so good. I’ve been learning a lot and have been trying to get out and meet our employees. One of my primary goals is to try and be engaged as much as I can with our team, and learning more about the business and how to bring value to the customers that we serve.

What are the biggest goals that you’re looking to accomplish – either immediately or later on?
My focus is really going to be around making sure we enhance the customer experience and deliver what I call “exceptional customer value,” because we exist to provide service for our customers -- that’s why we’re here. At the end of the day I want to make sure that when customers have an interaction with us, it’s remarkable. I am focused on trying to make sure that our costs are appropriate and that at the division level our expenditures are in line with what the customer expects so we have still got to make proper investments in infrastructure. We’ve got to make wise choices when it comes to making sure that we have the right types of positions available for our employees. I want to make sure we have a strong employee base and that we stay focused on our investment with minority and women owned businesses and keep that front and center. My predecessor did a great job with that and I want to make sure we don’t drop the ball at all on that. I do have a real focus around our people. I want to make sure we’re developing our people and that we’re providing opportunities for growth. I want to make sure we have a great relationship with our union, and I want to make sure we focus on safety.

What goes into, as you said, a “remarkable” customer experience?
There are a number of things that happen, so obviously customers that we touch at their residence, location, or customers that call us, -- those represent customer experiences. I want all those to be remarkable customer experiences. I want the customer to come away from that experience, even if they don’t get what they think they want, to make sure they’ve been treated well, that they experience empathy and what they consider a reasonable engagement. I want to make sure our digital platform is a platform that’s easy for customers to do business with, that lowers the stress on our customers, and enhances efficiency. I believe that when a customer has a request for something that is within the realm of what we can do, we should be responding in a reasonable time frame that shouldn’t require constant follow up. I believe there should be a “one touch” interaction so they make one touch with us and they then have their issue resolved. I don’t want customers to have to call around -- “You talk to me, I’m going to get it handled.”

What are the biggest challenges you’re facing?
My wife and I moved here knowing no one so we’re of course getting to know people. We’ve been very welcomed and that has been a great experience. One of my biggest challenges is trying to balance my focus on the company and my need to be engaged in the community, and trying to make sure I’m allocating the right time and effort in both of those areas. Not being from here, I don’t have the history of engagement in the community, so I’m trying to navigate that while I’m also navigating getting to know our people. I want to know everybody at MLGW which is just about next to impossible but I’m trying to get to know all of the folks here. The gas and the water side is also new to me, so I’m learning those areas of our business and all the things that come with it.

Talk about your history and how you got interested in this line of work?
I’ve got a 35-year career in the utility industry. My background is in engineering and I have a business background as well. Also marketing, customer service and IT and corporate facilities, where I’ve had land and facilities and risk management. My background in this industry is pretty broad and so I’ve had a chance to see it from a lot of different perspectives.

How do you plan to help people struggling to pay their bills?
MLGW has a number of programs designed to help folks struggling to pay their bills. I want to make sure that we are continuing to find ways to help folks who struggle with paying their bill. I don’t think we provide a luxury, I think what we provide is a basic necessity for life and for the sustaining quality of life. For that reason, I feel like we have to do everything we can to make sure that it’s affordable and that we’re helping those customers who do struggle to make ends meet. Today, I had conversations with folks around continuing to push the envelope around enhancing the efficiency of homes and helping customers take advantage of more energy efficient living environments. Ultimately, this gets back to what I think is my other hat if you will, from a community development perspective, which is, we can’t just stop at helping customers find ways to pay their bill, we have to help the community create opportunities for people to have sustainable living wages and have the skills and training and education they need so that they can earn a decent living. That is a longer term solution to the issue.

What about communicating with people during power outages? Are there ways to do more with this at MLGW?
We’ve been talking about making sure we push text alerts to customers who sign up. Giving them more information on the status of outages and how that affects them. I want to make sure that we leverage the tools, in every way that we can, to leverage technology to help our customers manage their day to day activities when there’s a disruption of service. We want to make sure we’re doing that to the best of our ability as well as when we have planned outages and things that we have to do for maintenance – not just when it’s disrupted unexpectedly. We need to make sure that we’re pushing every kind of communication we can  -- media, texts, mail-outs, just make sure folks know what’s going on.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
Just delighted to be here and I really think this is a community – this is an environment -- that has a great rich history and a bright future. Absolutely.

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