Customer Service

Public power earns recognition in J.D. Power customer survey

Public power utilities in the Midwest, South, and West were among the utilities that earned high marks for business customer satisfaction in a J.D. Power study. Results of the study were released on Dec. 12.

Within each of the four geographic regions included in the study – East, Midwest, South and West — 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 2018 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study, now in its 20th year, measured satisfaction among business customers of 88 targeted U.S. electric utilities, each of which serves more than 40,000 business customers. Scoring is based on a 1,000-point scale.

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.

In the West, public power was represented in the large and midsize segments. Arizona’s Salt River Project earned the top spot for the West large segment with a score of 818.

In the region’s midsize segment, California’s SMUD was in first place with a score of 794, while Seattle City Light came in second (score of 782). In fourth place was the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, with a score of 755.

In the midsize segment of the Midwest region, Omaha Public Power District earned the sixth spot with a score of 769.

Five public power utilities were represented in the midsize segment of the South region – Florida’s JEA (784 score), CPS Energy (763 score) and Austin Energy (754 score), both of which are based in Texas, and two Tennessee public power utilities, Nashville Electric Service (744 score) and Memphis Light, Gas and Water (702 score).

The only region that public power utilities were not represented was the East region.

Key findings of study

More broadly, the study found that customers have higher satisfaction when they have an online account and choose to receive an electronic bill. On average, offering these options leads to a 47-point increase (on a 1,000-point scale) in overall satisfaction.

The study also found that electric utilities that proactively communicate outage information, product offerings and other utility messages receive customer satisfaction scores that are 50 points higher than those that do not provide proactive communications. Overall, satisfaction is 11 points lower among customers who need to contact their utility to get information than among those who receive proactive communications.

Businesses with an assigned key account representative receive significantly higher ratings of being “customer-focused” and “trustworthy” compared with businesses that typically contact their utility through a business-specific services center or a general utility customer service telephone number.

The study is based on responses from more 19,000 online interviews with business customers who spend at least $200 a month on electricity. The study was conducted from February through June 2018 and July through October 2018. View the full rankings on J.D. Power.