J.D. Power ranks top utilities for outage restoration

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Westlake Village, Calif., February 17, 2011 — When power outages occur, providing business customers with accurate estimates of power restoration times are critical to maintaining customer satisfaction, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study.

The study is based on interviews with representatives of more than 17,000 U.S. businesses that spend between $500 and $50,000 monthly on electricity.

More than 90 utility brands serving a total of more than 11.7 million business customers are included in the study. Overall customer satisfaction is measured by examining six factors: power quality and reliability; billing and payment; corporate citizenship; price; communications; and customer service.

Among customers who experience a power outage, satisfaction with power quality and reliability averages 729 (on a 1,000-point scale) when power is restored by the time estimated by the electric provider.

However, if power restoration occurs after the estimated time, satisfaction declines to an average of 576 — a difference of more than 150 points.

The study finds that providing comprehensive information about outages has a notable positive effect on satisfaction with power quality and reliability.

Among business customers who contact their utility for information about an outage, satisfaction levels are highest among those who received at least three points of information. Satisfaction is lowest among customers who only received one piece of information.

“While causes of power outages may be outside the control of electric providers, they do have the ability to establish highly satisfying procedures for making adequate outage information available to customers,” said Jeff Conklin, senior director of the energy utility practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “Particularly for business customers, time is money. Providing accurate and comprehensive information about outages can help these customers make contingency plans and effectively plan resumption of their operations.”

Overall satisfaction averages 642 in 2011 — a slight decrease of four points from 2010. With the exception of billing and payment, each of the factors included in the study has decreased from 2010, with the largest declines occurring in the power quality and reliability factor (down seven points) and the customer service factor (down five points). The billing and payment factor improves by four points from 2010.

The study finds that a notable shift in bill payment methods has occurred in 2011. Significantly fewer customers pay their electric bill by mail in 2011 (48 percent), compared with 2010 (54 percent). Business customers increasingly rely on online payment via their bank’s website. This method is considerably more satisfying than payment by mail.

Within each geographic region included in the study, utility providers are classified into one of two segments: large (serving 85,000 or more business customers) and midsize (serving between 29,000 and 84,999 business customers). Rankings within each region and segment are as follows:

East Region

PPL Electric Utilities ranks highest among large electric utility providers in the East Region for a second consecutive year. Among midsize electric utilities in the East Region, Delmarva Power ranks highest.

Midwest Region

In the Midwest Region, Xcel Energy-Midwest ranks highest among large electric utilities, while MidAmerican Energy ranks highest among midsize brands.

South Region

Alabama Power ranks highest among large utilities in the South Region. Among midsize electric utilities, Oklahoma Gas and Electric ranks highest.

West Region

For a second consecutive year, Salt River Project ranks highest among large electric utilities in the West Region, and Sacramento Municipal Utility District ranks highest among midsize electric utility providers.

The 2011 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 17,886 online interviews with business customers of the 97 largest utility brands across the United States. The study was fielded from May to August 2010 and September to December 2010.

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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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