Colorado Springs Utilities spent about $27,500 last year to provide interpreter service to non-English speaking customers, according to an e-mail from a manager at Utilities.
“Like any other business striving for success, and as a community-owned utility, we must address the individual differences of our customers,” Monica Whiting, general manager of the utility’s Customer Revenue & Services Department, wrote Friday in an e-mail to City Council candidate Tony Carpenter.
“We recognize the growing diversity in our community and are proud to serve our customers and their unique needs cost-effectively. Further, as a community-owned utility, we have an obligation to serve all customers within our service territory,” she wrote.
The interpreter service is used for setting up an account, answering billing, payment and other utility questions, addressing safety concerns and work in the field when customer interactions are necessary, among other needs, Whiting wrote.
“The service is typically used by our customer service center, lobby and field employees, as needed, when serving customers,” she wrote.
Utilities apparently pays for the interpreter service by the minute.
For Spanish, the cost per minute is .64 cents. For other languages, it’s .67 cents.
Last year, Utilities was billed for 42,902 minutes.
Nearly all the minutes were for Spanish-speaking customers, but interpreter services were provided for 20 other languages. They include Korean, Mandarin, French, Kirundi, Vietnamese, Farsi, Hmong, Russian, Arabic, Romanian, Polish, Bosnian, Nepali, Cantonese, Serbian, Laotian, Swahili, Japanese, Croatian and Thai.
Utilities conducted a competitive process to select its vendor, according to Whiting.
“The interpreter service is more cost-effective when used on an as-needed bases, as opposed to staffing multiple employees for multiple languages to cover our call center and lobby hours,” Whiting wrote.