May 16, 2012 | last updated June 1, 2012 2:36 pm

New NU CEO places premium on customer service

In his first five weeks on the job, the new chief executive of New England energy provider Northeast Utilities has gone around to his 9,000 employees preaching customer service.

"I'm a nut about customer service," said Tom May, president and CEO of NU.

May took over the leadership role at NU following its April merger with Boston-based NStar. May was the president, CEO and chairman of NStar at the time of the merger, and former NU CEO, president and chairman Charles Shivery is now the non-executive chairman of the new company.

Following the merger, NU is the parent company for six electric and natural gas subsidiaries in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, including Yankee Gas and Connecticut Light & Power, both based in Berlin.

May took over as NU CEO just as CL&P is working to win back customers following widespread power outages caused by storms in August and October, some of whom were without power for more than 10 days.

"You've got to build that trust over time," May said. "When you have something like this, it does set you back."

CL&P and NU are working with Connecticut regulators to harden the electric infrastructure to make the system less susceptible to long, widespread outages. CL&P will conduct a drill with state officials in July to test their response and communication in major emergencies.

"We will improve our reliability," May said. "We will be ready next time."

After the second widespread outage in October, CL&P President and Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Butler resigned his position as the No. 2 executive at the company. Butler was CL&P's public face during the outage and faced widespread criticism for the company's failed communication and restoration efforts. NU was criticized in later reports examining the outages for scapegoating Butler and not offering him enough executive assistance during the crisis.

May said NU is currently conducting an executive search to replace Butler and is interviewing candidates, but no timeline for the hire has been set. The company doesn't have any specific criteria in the new hire.

"Someone who is really good at keeping the lights on," May said.


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