Communications and Customer Care

SRP, SMUD earn top scores for digital customer services

While a recent J.D. Power study concludes that the utility sector as a whole continues to struggle when it comes to delivering a satisfying digital customer experience, two public power utilities, Arizona’s Salt River Project and California’s SMUD, bucked the trend and earned high scores in J.D. Power’s 2019 Utility Digital Experience Study.

Now in its second year, the study assesses how customers interact with their utility based on their perceptions of the available websites and mobile apps as well as the social, email, chat and text functions of the 67 largest electric, natural gas and water utilities in the U.S. A mobile channel is necessary to be ranked in this study. Centric Digital collaborated on this study by contributing a digital intelligence benchmark.

The study was based on evaluations from 15,894 customers of the 67 largest electric, natural gas and water utilities. To be included in the study, utilities must serve 540,000 or more customers. The study was fielded in November-December 2018.

In a news release related to the study’s results, J.D. Power said that there is an improvement in overall satisfaction from last year. Although utilities still lag behind other industries when it comes to delivering a satisfying digital customer experience, “there remains a path forward for them to further improve.”

SRP ranked highest in overall satisfaction with a score of 882, investor-owned American Electric Power AEP (877) ranked second and SMUD (876) ranked third.

The ranking is based on a 1,000-point scale.

Jeffrey Lane, an SRP spokesman, noted that SRP moved from second place overall in 2018 to the top of the rankings for this year's study. In the 2018 study, SRP had a score of 872.

For its part, SMUD made significant strides from the 2018 study. In last year’s study, the California public power utility earned a score of 833.

SMUD continues to focus on implementation of digital-first strategy

“SMUD continues to focus on implementation of our digital-first strategy,” said Nicole Howard, SMUD Chief Customer Officer. “We also actively engage with our customers for their feedback on new proposed products, services and online enhancements,” she noted.

“As a result, we’ve deployed numerous enhancements to improve our customers’ digital experiences with SMUD, including the overhaul of our website and more recently the launch of several new channels like customer chat, the digital bill, the retail SMUD Energy Store, online start, stop and transfer service, online reconnect feature that offers 24/7 payment arrangements and auto-reconnect through the web, and the new SMUD app,” Howard noted.

“We’re looking closely at the data from this new J.D. Power study to identify key trends and actionable data as we continue to roll out customer offerings to support our digital-first strategy,” she said.

Key findings of the study

J.D. Power said that among the key findings of the 2019 study is that utilities remain among lowest-performing industries in digital. When benchmarked against other consumer-facing industries, utilities continue to offer one of the worst digital experiences, according to the Centric Digital IQ Score, which is used to benchmark digital intelligence. The utility industry scores 512 on a 1,000-point scale, a near 60-point decline from last year. The retail sector, in comparison, scores 694, J.D. Power said.

But there were some positive trends for utilities. J.D. Power noted that overall customer satisfaction increased. The industry average for overall satisfaction was 844, a five-point increase from last year (839). Driving this increase was a surge in satisfaction with apps, which increased 33 points to 873 from 840 last year. Mobile web satisfaction increased to 838 from 829, and desktop satisfaction increased to 844 from 843.

Additional information about the 2019 study and its findings is available here.