Top photo: Jeff VanDine, center, with Community & Customer Experience Manager Greg Earl and Director of Customer Experience Katie Grayem after winning the AEP Culture Award. VanDine was honored for reaching out to coworkers when they’ve suffered a significant injury or illness. He always offers a simple but heartfelt gesture such as sending homemade banana bread along with a note of encouragement.

Hired in 1979, Jeff VanDine is a customer service account manager who works with large businesses and industries in the Newark and Mount Vernon areas. He’s served one customer, Owens Corning, for almost the entire 40 years he has been with AEP Ohio.

“Jeff has been our go-to guy for many years. He’s helped us out a lot,” said Bill Braun, an Owens Corning engineer who retired in 2013 after 40 years there. “He always knows the right people at AEP that can help with any issues. But he has a good technical background, too. He really does know the business. And that’s key.”

Braun says he uses AEP Ohio as an example of a utility that has knowledgeable people and serves its customers well – and that’s largely because of VanDine’s influence.

We asked VanDine about his 40 years serving AEP Ohio’s customers.

VanDine says that while many of today’s technologies make it incredibly easy to communicate regularly with customers, one thing hasn’t changed: the importance of face-to-face meetings.

What was customer service like in the 1980s?

In those days a momentary interruption in service was not as devastating. And there were no computers, obviously. There was only one way to communicate: the landline hooked to the wall. And in person, of course. So that has been a dramatic change.

You’ve served at least one customer, Owens Corning, for almost 40 years. What’s that like?

The people have changed but the business is pretty much the same. Very few people are still there from when I started. It’s funny, I actually have the same phone number.

How has customer service changed?

Today we have the ability to communicate more quickly and easily with our customers. We have so many incredible, useful tools – iPhones, computers, email. It’s so much better than it used to be. One thing that hasn’t changed is that personal contact. We still need to talk face to face with our customers as often as we can.

Are customer requests different in 2019?

Bottom line, if we can’t deliver power in a reliable manner and in an economically acceptable manner then customers don’t need us for anything. That was true when we started and it’s true today, if not more so.

What’s the secret to reaching 40 years at AEP Ohio?

Oh I’m not that unusual. We have a great team of customer service reps who have been here a while and many of them have also been with the same customers for years. Everyone is out there working hard at this job day in and day out. So I’m not special. All you have to do is get old.

Published November 11, 2019

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