Business Customers More Satisfied Than Ever With Electric Utilities, Survey Says

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SNL Power Daily With Market Report

December 18, 2017

by Kelly Andrejasich

U.S. business customers' satisfaction with their electric utilities improved for the fifth year in a row, reaching a record high, according to J.D. Power and Associates' latest annual business customer satisfaction study.

U.S. business customers' satisfaction with their electric utilities improved for the fifth year in a row, reaching a record high, according to J.D. Power and Associates' latest annual business customer satisfaction study.

J.D. Power attributed the improvement to a focus by utilities to communicate and engage with customers over the phone, web, mobile devices and in person. For these annual studies, J.D. Power examines overall satisfaction across six factors: power quality and reliability, corporate citizenship, price, billing and payment, communications and customer service.

Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale. J.D. Power said overall satisfaction hit 765 in 2017, up 10 points from 2016. Satisfaction improved in each of the six factors, with the largest year-over-year increases in billing and payment and communications, each up 13 points. John Hazen, director of the utility practice at J.D. Power, said electric utilities are showing it is possible to dramatically improve customer satisfaction by reaching out to consumers across a number of channels.

"While there is no one-size-fits-all formula for success, electric utility leaders are finding that a steady combination of proactive outreach through a mix of digital, mobile, community events, and dedicated account representative touch points can drive a strong positive perception of their brands," Hazen said in a news release.

The "J.D. Power 2017 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study" measured 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.

J.D. Power said that among the eight providers that rank highest in their respective regions in the study, none were ranked highest in the previous one. Customer satisfaction is improving across the industry, J.D. Power said, noting the gap between the top performer and bottom performer in the study has narrowed to just 111 points, down from 118 in 2016.

In the East, Exelon Corp. subsidiary Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. ranked highest among large utilities, with 790 points. Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. subsidiary PSEG Long Island LLC ranked lowest of the 11 large utilities in the region, with 710 points.

Duquesne Light Co. ranked highest among 11 midsize utilities in the East, with 816 points, while FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary Monongahela Power Co. ranked last, with 708 points.

In the Midwest, DTE Energy Co. ranked highest among 13 large utilities with 793 points, while Alliant Energy Corp. ranked last, with 736 points. Among 10 midsize utilities in the region, Wisconsin Public Service Corp., a WEC Energy Group Inc. subsidiary, came out on top with 784 points and NiSource Inc. subsidiary Northern Indiana Public Service Co. was last, with 735 points.

Among 11 large utilities in the South, Southern Co. subsidiary Alabama Power Co. topped the list with 819 points, the highest among all utilities in the survey, and OGE Energy Corp. subsidiary Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. was at the bottom, with 759 points. Entergy Corp. subsidiary Entergy Mississippi Inc. ranked the highest among the 11 southern midsize utilities in the survey, with 800 points. Memphis Light Gas and Water Division came in last, with 718 points.

In the West, Portland General Electric Co. ranked highest among 12 large utilities, with 804 points. Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary NV Energy Inc. had 747 points, the lowest in the group. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District ranked highest among seven midsize utilities in the region, with 796 points, and PNM Resources Inc. subsidiary Public Service Co. of New Mexico was lowest, with 709 points.

J.D. Power said another key finding of the study is that there were fewer power outages compared to 2016 and utilities are doing a better job of communicating planned outages.

The study also found that having a dedicated account representative impacts a customer's satisfaction. J.D. Power said the average overall satisfaction score for business customers who have a dedicated account representative is 824, or 9 points higher than 2016, and 85 points higher than those without a dedicated account representative.

The 2017 study is based on responses from more than 19,000 online interviews with business customers who spend at least $200 a month on electricity. The study was fielded from February through June and July through October.

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