Image: Francis Energy press photo

Capable Customer Service Is Essential To EV Charging Networks

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In a recent article, I wrote about problems I had charging a Kia EV9 I’m reviewing. The vehicle itself has been great, but I wasn’t able to charge at two Francis Energy stations in New Mexico, even after calling customer support. This, in turn, led to me needing to charge at Level 2 a few miles down the road and then drive super slow to make it home on minimal battery. Altogether, that malfunction wasted about 4 hours of my life and kept me from going to bed until 4 AM.

Since writing about that, I got a message from Francis notifying me that there was a problem with my account. While I had $20 in credit that would have been more than enough for the short charging session I wanted to do, my card was expired, so their software wouldn’t let me charge. When I told them that I wished phone support had been able to let me know what the problem was, the rep got defensive, telling me that they had sent several e-mails letting me know about the expired card.

Whatever the reason for the inability to charge was, there’s one big question the tech support person didn’t want to answer: why am I finding out what the problem was two or three days later instead of when I called them from the charging station?

I know from my experiences calling Electrify America, EVgo, and even Blink that it’s possible for customer service representatives (at all hours) to be able to do things like reset stations, check on error codes, and help you get through billing issues. But, Francis Energy’s phone support is handled by a third party company, and those representatives can only help you start a charging session. They can’t do any of the other things reps for those other networks can do for you.

If I had called that night and had been told what the problem was, I could have easily fixed it and drove home. Instead, I find out two days later why I wasn’t able to charge, long after that information would have been useful.

Why I’m Sharing This Story

While big names like Tesla, Electrify America, EVgo, and ChargePoint get a lot of attention, those companies don’t run all of the charging stations out there. More and more, I’m seeing smaller regional and even local charging companies popping up on Plugshare. It seems unlikely that these smaller charging providers can afford to pay for a big call center, so many of them are going to use third-party support and software to help them manage the stations. The economics of scale can be taken advantage of when these companies share those resources.

But, the danger to using third-party support is that they won’t be as helpful as they should be. If the reps can’t see the reasons for charging errors, reboot malfunctioning stations, or help you fix account and billing issues, many people aren’t going to be able to get a charge when they otherwise very easily could have.

The fact is that we need all of these smaller charging companies to succeed. The big names can’t handle it all. There is simply too much need for EV charging in the coming years for us to lose any company without setting EV adoption back. So, we need to help these companies see what the issues are and fix them.

Featured image by Francis Energy.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1983 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba