Records reveal rude treatment by Cleveland Water representatives

Customers say they were ignored
Posted at 2:02 PM, Nov 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-08 15:59:39-05

A review of Cleveland Division of Water disciplinary records show one-third of customer service representatives have violated department policies ranging from neglect of duty to excessive absenteeism.

The records support complaints received by News 5 from water customers who have responded to our yearlong investigation into allegations of exorbitant water bills for water customers say they never used.

In addition, a recent survey by one the nation’s most respected customer service research firms of water departments across the country, found Cleveland Division of Water ranked near the bottom in customer service.

J.D. Power, most well-known for customer service reviews for everything from automotive to electronics, called the survey “the most comprehensive Voice of the Customer study of its kind."

An exclusive 5 News Investigation obtained nearly 300 pages of personnel records and found at least 32 of 94 customer service representatives were disciplined for a wide range of offenses including:

  • Hanging up on customers
  • Repeatedly interrupting
  • Providing inaccurate billing information

In addition, customer service representatives who are supposed to be helping water customers understand billing questions were found:

  • Reading at desks
  • Using cell phones for personal calls
  • Even making “inappropriate advances” including “looking up customer personal information”

But despite the seriousness of the offenses, every one of the customer service representatives kept their jobs and only a handful were suspended for several days.

One customer service representative was even overhead screaming: “I would have (expletive) her up—not about to take no (expletive) from no one.”

In exchange for rude treatment, Cleveland water customers help pay at least $3 million a year in salaries, including a $40,000 a year salary for a customer service representative who hired by the Water Department after being fired by Cleveland Emergency Services for “failing to report during a staffing emergency”

Cleveland EMS wrote it was “an egregious act” and “placed the citizens of Cleveland at risk.”

None of that deterred the Cleveland Division of Water from hiring the employee as a customer service representative for $40,000 a year.

The Cleveland Division of Water declined to comment on this story.

Beginning Oct. 24, News 5 conducted a two-week exclusive online survey for customers of the Cleveland Water Department to share their experiences. As of Nov. 7, the survey had garnered more than 200 responses:


Tell us about your experiences with the Cleveland Water Department here.