utility customer satisfaction on the rise

Overall customer satisfaction has improved among residential customers served by the nation’s 78 largest electric utilities, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2005 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study released in late July.

The Customer Satisfaction Index now stands at 99 points-up from 98 points in 2004. The index’s baseline of 100 points was established in the 2002 study. Overall customer satisfaction is based on performance in five factors: power quality and reliability; company image; price and value; billing and payment; and customer service. Utilities are ranked in four geographical regions as well as in a segment for medium-sized utilities.

“Utilities have continued the dramatic improvement in their operational functions, with improved ratings in power quality and reliability and customer service,” said Alan Destribats, executive director of the utility practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “However, ratings for price and value have fallen this year as customer-reported electric spending continues to be on the upswing and many utilities filed for rate increases for the first time in years.”

Customers report spending more on electricity for the third consecutive year. Average monthly bills have increased from $99 in 2002 to $109 this year. The Midwestern Region registers the lowest average monthly electric utility bill at $95.

Although four hurricanes in August and September 2004 caused considerable increases in customer-reported power outages in the Southern Region, utilities were able to maintain the same ratings in the area of power quality and reliability in last year’s study. The Eastern Region bounced back from the customer satisfaction drop experienced after the 2003 Northeast Blackout, improving 2 index points overall and 5 index points in power quality and reliability compared to 2004.

The study also finds that more customers now use the Internet to review and pay their utility bills. The percentage of households that visited their electric utility’s website at least once in the last 12 months has increased from 13 percent in 2004 to 17 percent this year. The number of customers who typically pay their utility bills online has increased from 7 percent in 2004 to 11 percent this year.

Eastern Region

PPL Electric Utilities ranked highest in the Eastern Region for the fifth consecutive year and for the sixth time in seven years with an index score of 108. PPL received particularly high ratings from customers in four of the five components: power quality and reliability; company image; price and value; and billing and payment. Also performing well in the region were Energy East, Baltimore Gas and Electric, Allegheny Power and the Potomac Electric Power Company.

Midwestern Region

LG&E Energy ranked highest in the Midwestern Region with a score of 112. LG&E ranked highest for the sixth time in seven years. LG&E outperformed all other utilities in the region in four of the five components: power quality and reliability; company image, price and value; and billing and payment. Also performing well in the region were MidAmerican, Cinergy and Alliant Energy.

Southern Region

Duke Power improved seven points over 2004 to rank highest in overall customer satisfaction in the Southern Region with a score of 109. Duke performed particularly well in the region in price and value; billing and payment; and power quality and reliability. Also performing well were Oklahoma Gas and Electric, Southern Company, Progress Energy and City Public Service of San Antonio.

Western Region

For the sixth time in seven years, Salt River Project ranked highest in the Western Region, with a score of 115. Salt River received the highest ratings in the region in every component. Also performing well in the region were Arizona Public Service, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric.

Medium-Size Utilities

Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) ranked highest in the Medium-Size Utilities segment (defined as utilities serving between 160,000 and 400,000 customers each) for the fourth consecutive year. With an overall customer satisfaction index of 116, OPPD received the highest index score in the J.D. Power and Associates study. Also performing well in this segment were Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Cleco Power, Colorado Springs Utilities and Nashville Electric.

The study results are based on customer responses from more than 26,700 telephone interviews conducted from April 7, 2005 through June 5, 2005, among residential customers of the 78 largest electric utilities across the continental United States. For more information on the J.D. Power and Associates 2005 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, visit www.jdpower.com.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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