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Customer Operations Celebrates Customer Service Week

Customer Service Week focuses on the importance of customer service and the people who serve and support customers on a daily basis.

(Story by Shanelle Hinkle-Moore)

AEP’s Customer Operations Centers (COCs) are holding various employee activities to celebrate Customer Service Week from October 8-12. This international celebration focuses on the importance of customer service and the people who serve and support customers on a daily basis.

The national theme this year is “Excellence Happens Here.” The theme recognizes the area where customers and service professionals come together. From the call center to the executive suite, from the loading dock to the home office, from behind the wheel to in front of a monitor. Where service happens is where excellence happens.

While COCs are often known for their call center work, they also provide a variety of other services. This includes bill print and insert services, back office collection work, technical support, back office billing, managing customer functions, inquiries on operating company websites, and much more.

Customer Operations work groups are located across AEP’s 11-state service territory. They provide direct and indirect customer service through:

  • Call centers located in Corpus Christi, Texas; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Groveport, Ohio; Hurricane, West Virginia; Shreveport, Louisiana, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
  • Billing and account operations;
  • Bill print and insert operations;
  • Credit policy and payment administration;
  • Providing customers with self-service options through the Internet;
  • Managing customer interactions through operating company websites, email, and the Internet; and
  • Technical and back office support.

Kentucky Power Servicer Aids Co-Worker Facing Medical Emergency

Kentucky Power President Matt Satterwhite, left, presented Ashland Servicer Mark Elkins, center, with the AEP Hero Award for his efforts in assisting Pikeville Technician Josh Smith, right, during a medical emergency. Photo by Allison Barker.

(Story by Allison Barker)

As a Kentucky Power Company servicer, Mark Elkins covers a familiar but vast territory. He can go weeks without visiting the same communities. So when he found himself working in Salyersville around lunchtime one day and spotted a Kentucky Power truck parked alongside the road, he thought he might get a co-worker to join him for lunch.

Instead, he became a hero when he found Pikeville technician Josh Smith collapsed on the ground by his truck in desperate need of medical attention. Elkins has received the AEP Hero award for his efforts in assisting Smith.

“As I was lying on the ground praying, God placed a peace over me and the next thing I know Mark is there to help,” Smith said. “I thank Mark for everything he did for me. … My wife, Tasha, now understands what it means to be a part of the AEP family.”

Smith, 30, was suffering from a medical condition that caused internal bleeding. When he started feeling discomfort, he pulled his truck off the road, where he got physically sick, collapsed and started to lose blood. He was able to call 911 but was so disoriented that he could not describe to emergency services his location. When Elkins found him, he was semi-conscience and hidden by tall weeds so passing motorists had no idea he was experiencing a medical emergency.

“As I lay on the ground praying, I started to feel better and thought that I could drive to a gas station near my location, maybe wash my face and everything would be good again,” Smith said. “When I stood up, I began to feel dizzy and held on to the door of the truck, and the longer I stood the weaker I got.

“I looked at the ground where I was sitting and noticed the color red, I decided I shouldn’t drive and I needed help, so I got my cell phone out of my pocket and proceeded to lay on the ground and call 911.

“Mark walks around the truck … took over and was able to give directions to our location. He followed the ambulance to the hospital and stayed with me until my wife arrived.”

Elkins said he is humbled by the Hero Award and dismisses any praise for helping a co-worker. He says, “I was just at the right place at the right time. It was a bad situation and the bottom line is we got him the help he needed. I’m not in this area every day. I believe that I was guided that way.”

Kentucky Power President Matt Satterwhite, however, disagrees and said Elkins’ actions are worthy of praise.

“Had Mark not been there to help Josh, there is no telling if anyone would have stopped and if Josh would be with us today,” Satterwhite said. “Josh needed to get to the hospital for his internal condition and could have sustained injuries in the catatonic state he was in on the side of the road with oncoming traffic. Mark prevented a life-threatening situation from becoming even more critical.”

Elkins’ actions aiding a co-worker in need follow a 2016 incident when Elkins found a young child about to enter a busy street without any adult in the area. He called authorities and waited for their arrival to ensure the child’s safety.

“Mark again demonstrated the best in Kentucky Power’s employee family, by being his brother’s keeper, by staying alert and by looking to serve others,” Satterwhite said.

Elkins says he’ll never forget either incident, nor will he forget the first visit with Smith after he was admitted to the hospital.

“First thing I saw was his wife, Tasha,” Elkins said. “She was naturally thanking me. I appreciated it but I told her when I walked in this door and saw his smile, that’s what was important.”

Both Smith and Elkins say their safety training at Kentucky Power helped them know how to respond in an emergency like this.

“As soon as I saw Josh, I knew it was out of my hands so I dialed 911,” said Elkins, a 15-year AEP employee. “I didn’t panic. There was no use for me to ask a lot of questions. That would have just delayed things. My advice is if a situation is out of your hands, get help. Don’t waste time.”

Smith joined Kentucky Power in 2013. He said safety training helped him make the decision to not drive out of concern for others.

“Safety is in everything we do,” Smith said. “Knowing that I wasn’t okay and needed assistance, all came from the safety training that I have been exposed to as an employee at AEP.”

Fire-Damaged Building at Mountain Mission School Remodeled With $1 Million AEP Foundation Assist

From left, Archie Pugh, Mary Begley, Brad Hall and Chris Beam in the remodeled space at Mountain Mission School.

(Story by John Shepelwich)

GRUNDY, Va. – Mountain Mission School, a century-old southwest Virginia resident school for children in need, celebrated the opening of its remodeled boys’ dormitory Sept. 18 helped along with a $1 million grant from the AEP Foundation.

Chris Beam, Appalachian Power Company president and chief operating officer, presented the grant to the school president, Chris Slone, in a ceremony attended by several hundred students and a crowd of staff and construction workers. Archie Pugh, AEP Transmission field services managing director, Brad Hall, Appalachian external affairs vice president, and Mary Begley, external affairs manager, were also guests at the event.

The almost 40-year-old Parker Hall dormitory was damaged by fire in April this year. Beds were moved into the school gymnasium that the male residents called home during the salvage and refurbishing.

Original plans called for the work to last into 2019, but a crew of dedicated contractors — many volunteering their time — had the job completed in less than 5 months while focused staff members raised funds for the project. A major contributor and benefactor of the school, Jim McGlothlin, and his wife, Fran, were key in getting funding and pushing the work to get the boys back in a conducive home atmosphere. The McGlothlins are from Bristol, Va.

“Jim reached out to me a few months ago,” said Beam at the ceremony. “When I found out more about the situation at Mountain Mission School and what was being accomplished here, we at Appalachian did what we could with the AEP Foundation to help get this grant for the youth in Parker Hall.”

Residents, aged from elementary to seniors in high school, had not been allowed to see the newly remodeled spaces until the ribbon cutting. They were let into the building, one of the four floors at a time, to see the totally remodeled rooms and commons spaces that will serve as their new homes until graduation.

Texas Transmission Crew Receives AEP Hero Award

AEP Transmission employees (shown left to right) Gilbert Silvas, Roel Garcia, Carlos Zepeda and Jonathan Gonzalez received the AEP Hero Award for rescuing a Corpus Christi resident who was stranded on the roof of her flooded vehicle during a storm this past summer.

(Story by Linda O’Horo)

AEP Transmission Line Crew Supervisor Jonathan Gonzalez and Transmission Line Mechanics Gilbert Silvas, Roel Garcia, and Carlos Zepeda recently received the AEP Hero Award from Transmission leadership for their heroic efforts rescuing a woman stranded on the roof of her car in rising waters in July.

Shawn Robinson, managing director, Transmission Field Services (Line-West), nominated the crew for this corporate award, which he presented to them during a recent visit to the Lon Hill Service Center.

Read the entire story here.

“There’s a lot of good work our employees do out there every day, and we just want to take the time to recognize a few employees, encourage them, and let them know we appreciate them when they step out of their way and do things like this,” Robinson said. “This is about being a brother’s keeper, which we talk about internally a lot, watching out for each other.

“But in our roles we deal with the public a lot. So in this case, it was not about the electrical system, but being a part of the community. They went above and beyond to help someone in need, so it’s just a great chance to recognize them.”

Garcia said he and his fellow crew members chose to do the right thing that day.

“We were just doing our jobs when we decided to look and see, and we saw a lady there,” Garcia said. “We helped her after putting our whole family perspective in mind. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, just the right thing to do. So this award is not something I expected, but it is appreciated. It was just the right thing to do.”

Obituaries

AEP Service Corporation

Ben Crawford, 78, Renaissance Tower, died July 12.

Kenneth Sheldon, 86, retired, died August 24.

AEP Texas

Jerry Johnson, 85, retired, Abilene General Office, died August 18.

Appalachian Power Company

John Bussey, 70, Fieldale Office, died July 27.

Gerald Cook, 79, retired, Claytor Hydro, died August 11.

Mark Fleming, 61, Hurricane Call Center, died August 3.

Aaron Giles, 75, Roanoke Main Office, died August 19.

Columbus Southern Power Company

Phillip Lane, 68, 700 Building Gahanna, died August 7.

William Walters, 73, retired, Athens Service Center, died August 8.

Indiana Michigan Power Company

David Brown, 70, Three Rivers Service Center, died July 23.

Linda Holmes, 69, Muncie Service Center, died August 14.

Ohio Power Company

Roger McComas, 71, Gavin 765 Yard, died August 17.

Agnes Minger, 101, retired, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died August 9.

Leonard Robbins, 95, retired, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died July 28.

Roy Taylor, 75, retired, Muskingum River Plant, died July 26.

Public Service Company of Oklahoma

S. H. Barnes, 90, retired, Tulsa General Office, died August 5.

Madison Clinton Jr., 54, Hobart Office, died August 10.

Mary Harrell, 94, retired, Tulsa General Office, died August 9.

Bobby Perry, 73, retired, Chickasha Service Center, died July 18.

Southwestern Electric Power Company

Charles Boyd, 89, retired, Shreveport General Office, died August 9.

William Dawson, 70, Shreveport General Office, died July 27.

John Hayter Jr., 93, retired, Shreveport General Office, died July 25.

Troy Repass, 93, retired, Shreveport General Office, died July 30.

Transmission

Dennis Huntsman, 70, retired, Cambridge Transmission Service Center, died August 14.

August Retirements

AEP Ohio

David Buzza, Home Worksite-Ohio, retired August 25 after 10 years of service.

Alan Conner, Newark Service Building, retired August 4 after 36 years of service.

Michael Ferraro, 850 Tech Center, retired August 1 after 21 years of service.

Kevin Kuehne, 700 Building Gahanna, retired August 1 after 11 years of service.

Deborah Mathew, Columbus Southeast Service Center, retired August 1 after 41 years of service.

Ted Miller, Marietta Service Center, retired August 2 after 34 years of service.

Thomas Perry, Lucasville Service Center, retired August 1 after 36 years of service.

Michael Poole, Canton General Service Center, retired August 1 after 40 years of service.

Gary Rayburn, Athens Service Center, retired August 8 after 40 years of service.

Diane Shaffer, Canton Eastern Regional Office, retired August 1 after 39 years of service.

AEP River Transportation Division

Art Williams, River Transportation Division, retired August 1 after 25 years of service.

AEP Service Corporation

Barbara Bailey, Central Operations Center, retired August 1 after 42 years of service.

Guy Cerimele, AEP Headquarters, retired August 11 after 33 years of service.

Doris Cox, AEP Headquarters, retired August 31 after 42 years of service.

David Hurban, AEP Headquarters, retired August 25 after 12 years of service.

Wayne Hurt, Roanoke Main Office, retired August 31 after 36 years of service.

Louis Matustik, AEP Headquarters, retired August 2 after 32 years of service.

Roy Middleton, AEP Headquarters, retired August 1 after 45 years of service.

Marguerite Mills, AEP Headquarters, retired August 11 after 39 years of service.

Jon Painter, Roanoke Main Office, retired August 1 after 40 years of service.

Norma Shelton, Roanoke Main Office, retired August 31 after 44 years of service.

John Skidmore, Milton Service Center, retired August 1 after 39 years of service.

Phillip Stickney, AEP Headquarters, retired August 2 after 15 years of service.

AEP Texas

Iris Porter, Bay City Service Center, retired August 10 after 28 years of service.

Appalachian Power Company

Richard Ash, Central Machine Shop, retired August 11 after 43 years of service.

John Bayes, North Charleston Service Center, retired August 1 after 40 years of service.

Randall Fields, Lebanon Service Center, retired August 1 after 39 years of service.

Gary Hester, Glade Spring Service Center, retired August 1 after 39 years of service.

Victoria Totten, Beckley Service Center, retired August 1 after 40 years of service.

Generation

Cindy Avant, Knox Lee Plant, retired August 20 after 29 years of service.

Danny Barker, Big Sandy Plant, retired August 1 after 44 years of service.

Terry Burkhard, Cook Nuclear Plant, retired August 23 after 38 years of service.

Judy Butcher, Rockport Plant, retired August 1 after 35 years of service.

David Depaulis, Mitchell Plant, retired August 1 after 29 years of service.

Lloyd Dopp, Cook Nuclear Plant, retired August 17 after 25 years of service.

Ivan Fleetwood, Cook Nuclear Plant, retired August 25 after 40 years of service.

David French, Winfield Hydro, retired August 4 after 42 years of service.

Ricky Hensley, Northeastern Station 3&4, retired August 30 after 28 years of service.

Van Lashbrook, Rockport Plant, retired August 1 after 34 years of service.

Stephen McFarland, Mitchell Plant, retired August 1 after 36 years of service.

Wayne Pifer, Cardinal Plant, retired August 1 after 34 years of service.

Indiana Michigan Power Company

Phillip George, One Summit Square, retired August 2 after 20 years of service.

Kentucky Power Company

Timmy Hall, Pikeville Service Center, retired August 1 after 41 years of service.

Southwestern Electric Power Company

Lucien Hall, Haughton Operations Center, retired August 25 after 33 years of service.

James Lyles, Shreveport Operations, retired August 25 after 38 years of service.

Gary Sanders, Texarkana Operations, retired August 25 after 37 years of service.

Roger Stewart, Dolet Hills Lignite Mine, retired August 21 after 23 years of service.

Ronald Tevebaugh, Longview Operations, retired August 11 after 35 years of service.

Transmission

Richard Gutman, AEP Transmission Headquarters, retired August 1 after 49 years of service.

Michael Kitchen, Robert E. Matthews Service Center, retired August 1 after 31 years of service.

Nick Akins, Local CEOs, Power Chords Band Together to Thrash Hunger

The heads of some of Columbus’ largest organizations will join forces Sept. 20 from 6-9 p.m. at Express Live! (405 Neil Ave., Columbus) to rock your world and feed the hungry in central Ohio:

  • Nick Akins, Chairman, President & CEO, American Electric Power;
  • George Barrett, Chairman & CEO, Cardinal Health;
  • Joe Hamrock, President & CEO, NiSource;
  • Tom Krouse, CEO, Donatos and;
  • Guest performer Matt Habash, President & CEO, Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

 

All proceeds from this annual benefit concert event go to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, whose mission is to end hunger one nourishing meal at a time while co-creating communities where everyone thrives. Tickets are $25 (includes hors d’oeuvres and drink ticket), and you can order tickets here. The advance ticket sale ends Sept. 17.

The Foodbank provides enough food for 155,000 meals a day, stabilizing families, connecting hungry neighbors with community services and energizing the community to address the root causes of hunger. Some 650 non-profit partners in 20 Ohio counties distribute nearly 70 million pounds of food to those in need each year. Mid-Ohio Foodbank is a United Way partner agency, and AEP supports the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and Operation Feed.

I&M Employees Paddle in United Way’s Cardboard Boat Race

The “Power Shark” circles its opponents during the United Way of Elkhart County’s ninth annual Cardboard Boat Race.

(Story by Schnee Garrett)

ELKHART, Ind. — Will it sink or will it float? That was the ultimate question for several Indiana Michigan Power employees who competed in the United Way of Elkhart County’s ninth annual Cardboard Boat Race. The race was at the LaSalle Bristol pond in Elkhart.

For weeks prior to the race,  the Elkhart Service Center line department and a group of Customer Design Engineers from the South Bend Service Center constructed their boats. The vessel from Elkhart was named the “Power Shark” and “The Indefatigable” represented South Bend.

This year, the United Way of Elkhart County had a record-breaking 52 boats enter the race. Teams competed in several heats with the winning cardboard boat advancing to the championship race. Several I&M employees came out to cheer on their co-workers in the water.

I&M’s first boat in the water was “The Indefatigable,” paddled by Myron Stutzman and Matt Boland. The pair, representing South Bend, completed a lap around the pond but came in second. A few heats later, it was Jared Stork and Nate Jacob’s turn to get into the water with the “Power Shark.” The boat held up in the water, but the Elkhart team came in second.

However, both teams had one more battle in the pond. All of the cardboard boats that didn’t win their heat and could still float were invited back into the water for one final race. The I&M teams were looking to not just win the heat, but for bragging rights as well. In the race towards the final green buoy, “The Indefatigable” beat the “Power Shark.”

Both barns plan to create a new boat and compete next year. The event is touted as the largest cardboard boat race in the Midwest and is one of the largest fundraisers for the United Way of Elkhart County. The money raised will go towards helping several community partners in the area including the Boys and Girls Club of Elkhart County and the American Red Cross.

Flint Creek Power Plant Recognized for Environmental Excellence

(Story by Peter Main)

Flint Creek Power Plant in Gentry, Ark., has been awarded Conservation Certification by the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) in recognition of the plant’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

American Electric Power received the certification for its SWEPCO power plant’s habitat enhancement programs, including tallgrass prairie restoration, nesting boxes and other bird habitat improvement, and pollinator garden landscapes.

“The Flint Creek Power Plant is recognized as meeting the strict requirements of WHC Conservation Certification,” said Margaret O’Gorman, WHC president. “Companies achieving WHC Conservation Certification, like AEP SWEPCO, are environmental leaders, voluntarily managing their lands to support sustainable ecosystems and the communities that surround them.”

Flint Creek was designated as Certified Silver, signifying leadership among the over 700 WHC Conservation Certification programs. Programs are given a Certified, Silver Certified or Gold Certified designation. Flint Creek has held certification under the WHC’s Corporate Lands for Learning and Wildlife at Work programs since 2004 and 2002, respectively, and since 2016 when the two programs were combined into the Conservation Certification.

“We are extremely proud of the long-standing environmental stewardship efforts by our team at Flint Creek, as well as the community partnerships that have grown up around that stewardship,” said Malcolm Smoak, SWEPCO president and chief operating officer.

Flint Creek Plant Manager Carl Handley said, “We’re pleased that the Wildlife Habitat Council has again recognized our company and employees for their work to enhance the environment and provide great learning opportunities for the community. Retired Flint Creek chemist Terry Stanfill has continued to spearhead many of our efforts.”

Approximately 700 acres of the power plant’s 1,600 acres are designated as wildlife habitat. The site for many activities is Flint Creek’s 65-acre Eagle Watch Nature Trail, which includes a half-mile walking trail and two wildlife viewing pavilions. Built in 1999 on SWEPCO Lake, the power plant’s cooling reservoir, Eagle Watch is located on Hwy. 12 one mile east of Gentry. It is open to the public at no charge year-round.

Although wintering bald eagles are the main attraction at Eagle Watch, more than 180 bird species have been identified. Mammals in the area include foxes, deer and beaver. Reptiles and amphibians include various species of lizards, turtles, snakes, toads and frogs. The pavilions include plant and animal identification displays.

Akins Appears on CNBC’s ‘Mad Money’ With Jim Cramer

AEP CEO Nick Akins (right) responds to a question from stock analyst Jim Cramer on CNBC’s “Mad Money with Jim Cramer” program.

Nick Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer, appeared on CNBC’s “Mad Money with Jim Cramer” program August 16 and discussed AEP’s second-quarter financial results, the Wind Catcher renewable energy project and more with the show’s host, stock analyst Jim Cramer.

View the video.

Referring back to AEP’s second-quarter earnings report, Cramer noted that the company was on target with its 5-to-7 percent earnings growth projections following a strong second quarter.

“The investment plan our company has will continue to grow. We’re at a 5-to-7 percent growth rate, and this last quarter we extended the capital forecast to 2021 to really show the markets we were intent on that 5-to-7 percent growth rate,” Akins said. “The ability for us to invest in transmission, the ability to invest in the changing energy environment related to the way we provide our energy services is a very positive aspect of our business.”

Turning to the recently cancelled Wind Catcher renewable energy project, Akins told Cramer the company thought Wind Catcher had a number of benefits for the company and customers, but AEP has maintained its strong core business and is moving on to other projects.

“We felt like it was a great project, but from the outset we said our commissions have to approve these projects. It was a unique project, a large investment in western Oklahoma,” Akins said. “We were disappointed, but at the same time, we have a firm foundation for our company with the capital investments we can make regardless of Wind Catcher. Now we’ll focus on smaller investments of renewables to replace it. It’s just one of those aspects of our business. We’ll have projects, we’ll have opportunities, some will go, some won’t go, but it’s all built around a firm foundation and our ability to be selective on projects we can move forward.”

Cramer noted that AEP has been striving to reduce its carbon footprint over the last several years and he asked Akins if he was able to reconcile that effort with what happened with Wind Catcher.

“Wind Catcher was one of those projects where we were getting out ahead of our resource plans. We file individual resource plans in all 11 of the jurisdictions we serve and there is small capacity that you build — small wind farms and solar and so forth — that are in those plans,” Akins answered. “This was a unique opportunity to get out ahead in many of those aspects. That being said, the risk parameters around this project became such that we had to really quantify those risks. It was great for customers but we also wanted to make sure it was great for investors. So we go with the project, go through the approvals, the project doesn’t move forward but we still continue with our resource plans for smaller projects that will fill the gap.”

Switching to the economy, Cramer wanted to know where AEP is seeing the most growth.

“We have big markets in Texas and in the Midwest. In the states we serve in the south central U.S., along with the Midwest, the energy economy is certainly substantial,” Akins reported. “We’re growing higher than the GDP (growth domestic product) of the country. Our income growth continues to be there, job creation continues to be there. Residential, commercial and industrial load in particular continues to improve, so the fundamentals of the area of the country we serve are very positive.”

In today’s energy environment, Cramer wondered if anyone would take on the risk of building another nuclear plant.

“In today’s environment, where technology is going and where natural gas prices are, it’s a significant challenge to build a large, central station generation facility and take on that amount of risk,” Akins said. “Hats off to Southern (Company) for moving that process forward relative to nuclear but, at the same time, when we look at it from an investment thesis, we have the largest transmission system, multiple sets of projects, and projects that are emerging on the distribution side relative to distributed energy resources. The magnitude of the small projects add up to much less risk for investors, so when we look at the future in terms of investment, with distributed energy resources, with where technology is going, from a transmission standpoint, those are investments we can make that minimize risk not only to our customers but to our shareholders, as well.”

So how does the advent of electric vehicles factor into the whole energy equation?

“We see it as sales channel growth for the utility industry,” Akins said. “We announced today (August 16) that charging stations will be built around the Ohio area and that’s a major effort on our part to ensure that the infrastructure is there to support electric vehicles. Currently, we sell the electricity to electric vehicles but it’s also an avenue for transportation to make sure there is accessibility for everyone without having to go to a gas station, for example.”