PG&E CEO on regaining customer trust

August 30, 2012 6:30:45 PM PDT
PG&E's new CEO has been in place just shy of one year. Despite much progress in that year, there's still a long way to go in turning the company around, he told reporters Thursday.

PG&E was in San Bruno Thursday, filling the decommissioned pipeline with a concrete mixture. And within the company, the work of rebuilding customer trust is just beginning.

CEO Anthony Earley has been at the helm for just under one year. He says seven of the wrongful death suits have been settled, and the eighth is close. He'd like to have the dozens of remaining San Bruno victim suits settled by the end of the year.

"We really need to get on with all the work that we need to do. The company has acknowledged that we're responsible for that," Earley said. "We've made real progress with actual victims. But we need to get all these proceedings behind us."

Earley says he hopes PG&E can regain customers' trust through an intense focus on operational excellence. The company is taking a look at everything it does from top to bottom and comparing itself to the best in the business, a process known as benchmarking.

"We've done extensive benchmarking of our operations to show where the gaps exist and rather than be embarrassed by the gaps, we need to celebrate the gaps because they give us the roadmap for success in the future," he said.

Earley thinks trust will be regained one customer at a time as they interact with company workers for basic and emergency needs. "We're going to continue to screw up at times," he said. But "when we have problems we want to make sure we jump right on them and fix them," he added.

Maricaye Mowry is one of those customers. She lives in Daly City and shops in San Bruno just up the street from the blast site. If she's any indication, PG&E has its work cut out for it in restoring credibility.

"For a long time they must have known there's a problem and they didn't do anything about it, and I think there's still a big problem," she said.

Earley said so far shareholders have absorbed about $1 billion worth of costs related to PG&E. That figure is expected to climb.


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