New virtual appliance service – customers love Tech-Talk

Patricia Hardy is a busy, working mom who cares for a family that includes two teenagers and her 86-year-old mother, so when her dishwasher gave her an error message recently it was one more challenge that she just didn’t need.

“Our teenagers are constantly in and out of the kitchen,” Hardy said from her Warren home. “I was so relieved to get a call back from PSE&G and to be told that we could fix the dishwasher over the phone.”

PSE&G technician Joseph Cutrona helping a customer.

Hardy is one of hundreds of PSE&G WorryFree customers who participated this week in the just launched, remote Tech-Talk program that connects service technicians with customers to resolve most issues over the phone through expert guidance. She said her husband spoke with the technician, who looked up the error code and advised him how to use their circuit breaker to reboot the electric powering the dishwasher. It solved the problem and the dishwasher has worked since.

“Our technician was extremely helpful, very friendly and understood how urgent the situation was for us,” Hardy said. “At times like this, when it would be just as much of a risk for me as for the service manager to come into our home, I was so relieved to have someone call me back and see if we could resolve this over the phone. This was easy.”

PSE&G Vice President of Gas Operations Joe Forline said the program was created in response to state and local ordinances that do not allow residential visits for nonessential services due to COVID-19. He said it’s important that customers still receive value from their trusted WorryFree partners.

“It’s innovative and responsive,” Forline said. “We’re pleased with the initial successes, especially our high number of satisfied customers.”

Since the program launched April 20, 33 technicians have helped more than 1,400 WorryFree Protection Plan customers — the majority of whom were either walked through a self-repair or able to stabilize the issue until it is safe for a technician to visit their homes.

Larry, Cutrona’s quarantine “coworker.”

Joseph Cutrona, who has fixed appliances for more than 15 years and joined PSE&G as a technician in Plainfield eight years ago, said at first he worried that some customers would not like the phone option.

“Every single one of my customers is so happy that we’re even responding,” Cutrona said while on a recent break from calls. “It’s a win-win. I’m happy to be on the team, and I love what I’m doing.”

Cutrona said although it takes patience to walk someone through a self-repair, the remote job is made easier by current technology like cellphone video. He often asks customers for permission to FaceTime, so they can show him the actual appliance or a needed serial number.

Michael La Rose, a technician in Summit with nearly 23 years of experience, said he hopes Tech-Talk is available even after the pandemic ends. Currently, there are talks to extend it through air conditioning season.

“It’s awesome. Customers are very receptive,” La Rose said. “Assessing the problem remotely saves the company time and, once the stay-at-home order is lifted, we can have parts shipped to arrive before we send a technician out.”

Retired law enforcement officer Ed Plunkett of North Jersey said the best part of his Tech-Talk experience was having an extremely knowledgeable expert, technician John Gibbs, give him the confidence he needed to fix his clothes washer.

“I watched videos and pulled up information on Google, but it was nothing like having John assure me that nothing would go wrong if I pushed the spin cycle,” Plunkett said from his home. “It’s a tough time for everybody and, if PSE&G sent somebody out, I would be extremely hesitant to have them in my home for the time it would take to fix something.

“Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone with a reassuring voice to talk to. I’ve tried other services but I’ve had WorryFree for about eight years now and there’s no comparison. I’m one happy customer.”

Lauren Ugorji, Lead Writer - PSE&G

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