|Berkshire Gas Appoints New President, Sees Customer Ratings Rise|
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff|
12:24AM / Tuesday, January 12, 2021
|Berkshire Gas has appointed a new president.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Gas is seeing new leadership as natural gas executive Sue Kristjansson has been appointed president and chief operating officer. Kristjansson is the Berkshire Gas' 12th president since its founding in 1853.
Berkshire Gas provides natural gas service to 40,000 customers in 20 communities in the three most western counties of Massachusetts. Parent company Avangrid Networks made the announcement on Jan. 4, the same day she started in her new post.
Kristjansson replaces outgoing President Franklyn Reynolds, who was promoted to oversee Avangrid Networks' companies in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Previously, she was president and CEO of the Oak Ridge Utility District in Tennessee. She worked with this company for about three years and has been in the gas industry for about 20.
Kristjansson said she attracted by Berkshire Gas' long legacy of business and its reputation.
"Once you're in the industry, the work travels and the connections are made and the discussions are had," she said. "So I was alerted that there might be an opportunity here and looking at this 167-year-old company and the reputation that it holds, and the reputation it holds of the staff that it has, how could I pass it up?"
Kristjansson plans to take the next six months to a year to learn everything that she can about the area and the customer base, and meet both customers and her peers in the industry.
While at Oak Ridge Utility District, she served on the Tennessee State Energy Policy Council, American Public Gas Association Board, and the American and Tennessee Gas Association Board.
She will be getting involved locally by taking Reynold's position on the 1Berkshire Alliance Board of Directors and may become a member of the Berkshire CEO Roundtable.
Kristjansson wants customers to know of her goals to serve them just as well or better than they have been served for the time that Berkshire Gas has been in business. Because of beginning this position during the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been able to meet plenty of colleagues virtually but looks forward to the day where they can have in-person connections.
"I am a social animal, I love being around people," Kristjansson said. "So I cannot wait until that day where I can roam around and pop into peoples offices and chat, but until then we all have to make do with what we've got going on."
Reynolds said Berkshire Gas has continued to serve customers as it has in the past, but at the same time, the company is recognizing the economic hardship that customers are having. He said it offers a plethora of programs so that customers can have their service maintained.
These programs include forgiveness and flexible payments, as well as the statewide disconnect moratorium that has been extended to April 1. Reynolds said Berkshire Gas has made it a point to advertise these services to benefit as many customers as possible.
Reynolds highlighted that Berkshire Gas has pivoted to remote work very well since the start of the pandemic. Many employees are providing customer service from home.
The company just received its customer satisfaction results from 2020 which reflected the its effort during the pandemic. Ninety percent of Berkshire Gas customers rated their services as very satisfying, which is up from 82 percent in 2019.
"We actually improved which is amazing, you would think that this is the year with all of the challenges with having to transition to remote work which is something that no industry has ever done before, you would expect to see some impact, maybe some erosion of service or some erosion of satisfaction." Communications and Government Relations Manager Chris Farrell said. "So not only are we doing well, but we're doing better. And if you look in the industry, a 90 percent customer satisfaction rating in the utility is top of the trade, it's literally unprecedented."
Farrell credited the company's field troops for making this high rating possible. This includes call center representatives working from home and field workers.
"It's been a good year, a challenging year, but a good year," Reynolds said.
Farrell said that with a new leader, Berkshire Gas will see a new personality, a new leadership style, and new goals and skills.
"The Berkshires are a special place," Reynolds said. "And we are going to continue to serve out customers and continue to have great customer satisfaction under Sue's leadership."