Customer Service, T&D, Transmission

Customer satisfaction with utilities climbs, J.D. Power finds

Overall business customer satisfaction with electric utilities has climbed this year, but the gap between the highest-ranking and lowest-ranking utilities also has grown.

According to the J.D. Power 2019 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study, overall satisfaction has increased 18 points (on a 1,000-point scale), but the gap between the highest- and lowest-performing individual utility has increased to a 13-year high of 192 points.

“Electric utilities around the country have been ramping up their communications efforts, often addressing everything from mobile alerts about outages to updates on citizenship initiatives,” said Adrian Chung, Director, Utilities Intelligence at J.D. Power. “Many top-performing utilities are getting that formula right, by visibly maintaining their infrastructure and leveraging technology to ensure businesses receive timely information needed to deal with outages and support decision-making. However, several utilities are still missing the mark by not focusing on these areas that drive customer satisfaction.”

Following are some key findings of the 2019 study:

Business customer satisfaction surges: Overall business customer satisfaction with electric utilities is 779, up 18 points from 2018, driven largely by improvements in communication and price. Proactive communication about power outages and estimated restoration times have played a key role in this increase, with overall satisfaction increasing 24 points when customers are alerted to an outage.

Awareness for infrastructure maintenance efforts boosts satisfaction: Business customer satisfaction is 197 points higher when customers perceive their utility makes efforts to maintain their current infrastructure vs. those that are either unaware or perceive their utility does no maintenance. Amid continued global media attention on the recent Northern California wildfires, awareness regarding infrastructure maintenance is lowest among customers in the Western region of the United States.

Environmental initiatives generate low awareness—but positive effect—on customer perception: Less than half of business customers of electric utilities are aware of their utility provider’s efforts to improve their influence on the environment (44%) or protect and restore native fish and wildlife (30%). Yet when customers are awareness of both environmental initiatives, it is associated with a 200-point increase in the utility’s corporate citizenship satisfaction score.

Business customers take advantage of utility online offerings: Nearly three-fourths (72%) of business customers have an online account with their utility. Customers who engage online are more likely to leverage alert offerings, with 90% saying they have signed up to receive alerts related to outages, weather and billing as compared with just 60% for those without an online account.
Electric Utility Business Rankings

Within each of the four U.S. geographic regions included in the study, utility providers are classified into one of two segments: large (serving 85,000 or more business customers) and midsize (serving 40,000-84,999 business customers). The following utilities rank highest in business customer satisfaction in their respective region:

• East Large: BGE
• East Midsize: Delmarva Power
• Midwest Large: MidAmerican Energy
• Midwest Midsize: Kentucky Utilities
• South Large: Georgia Power
• South Midsize: Entergy Texas
• West Large: SRP
• West Midsize: El Paso Electric

The 2019 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study, now in its 21st year, measures satisfaction among business customers of 87 targeted U.S. electric utilities, each of which serves more than 40,000 business customers. In aggregate, these utilities provide electricity to more than 12 million customers. Overall satisfaction is examined across six factors (listed in order of importance): power quality and reliability; corporate citizenship; price; billing and payment; communications; and customer service.

The study is based on responses from more than 21,000 online interviews with business customers that spend at least $200 a month on electricity. The study was fielded from February through October 2019.