WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: 13 June 2012 — In Georgia, in which the retail natural gas market is deregulated, highly satisfied customers make more recommendations and are more committed to their retailer than do less satisfied customers, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Georgia Natural Gas Retailer Residential Customer Satisfaction StudySM released today.
The study measures customer satisfaction with retail natural gas providers in Georgia by examining four key factors (listed in order of importance): price; billing and payment; communications; and customer service. Beginning in 1998, the natural gas utility market in the Georgia was deregulated and opened to retail competition. According to the Energy Information Administration, approximately 1.4 million Georgia households are served by retail natural gas providers.
"Through customer service excellence, gas retailers in Georgia have been able to differentiate their brands," said Andrew Heath, senior director of the energy practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "By providing more accessible and helpful means of answering customer questions and addressing general concerns, some retailers have been able to achieve highly satisfied and committed customers, which contributes to their growth."
The study finds a strong correlation between highly committed1 customers and high overall customer satisfaction scores for natural gas retailers, among other measures. For example, 13 percent of natural gas customers in Georgia are highly committed to their provider, compared with 28 percent of low commitment customers. The following are examples of metrics regarding highly committed customers, compared with low committed customers.
- The average satisfaction score of highly committed customers is 892 vs. 568 among low committed customers
- Seven in 10 (70%) highly committed customers say they "definitely will" recommend their retailer to family and friends vs. 2% of low committed customers
- Highly committed customers make an average of 3.3 positive recommendations per year vs. 0.3 for low committed customers
- Slightly more than three-fourths (77%) of highly committed customers say they "definitely will" repurchase their gas service from the same retailer vs. 17% of low committed customers
Customer commitment is primarily driven by the customer experience, and comprises 64 percent of the overall impact on customers' commitment level to their retailer.
Overall satisfaction among natural gas customers in Georgia averages 690, an increase of 23 points from 2011. All brands ranked in the 2011 study have experienced an increase in satisfaction. Satisfaction is particularly high in the customer service (777) and billing and payment (740) factors, and lowest in communications (626).
The study finds that 57 percent of natural gas customers in Georgia chose their current retailer because of price, followed by 13 percent who selected their retailer based on a recommendation. After selecting a retailer, natural gas customers are likely to stay with that retailer. A majority of customers (85%) have been a customer of their current natural gas retailer for more than one year.
Georgia Natural Gas Retailer Residential Results
Walton EMC ranks highest among natural gas retailers in Georgia, achieving a score of 742 and performing well in all four factors. Following in the rankings are SCANA Energy Regulated Division (703)2 and Coweta-Fayette EMC (700).
"Contributing to Walton EMC's high ranking are the communications best practices they employ," said Heath. "The customer's ability to remember a Walton EMC communication has increased significantly to 40 percent--up from 21 percent in 2011. The effort to communicate to their customers bodes well in building brand loyalty and developing commitment to the brand."
The 2012 Georgia Natural Gas Retailer Residential Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from more than 3,550 customers of natural gas retailers in Georgia. The study was fielded quarterly between July 2011 and April 2012.
For more information, view Georgia retail gas provider ratings at JDPower.com.
About J.D. Power and Associates
Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services company operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, performance improvement, Web intelligence and customer satisfaction. The company's quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. For more information on car reviews and ratings, car insurance, health insurance, cell phone ratings, and more, please visit JDPower.com. J.D. Power and Associates is a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies.
About The McGraw-Hill Companies
McGraw-Hill announced on September 12, 2011, its intention to separate into two public companies: McGraw-Hill Financial, a leading provider of content and analytics to global financial markets, and McGraw-Hill Education, a leading education company focused on digital learning and education services worldwide. McGraw-Hill Financial's leading brands include Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, S&P Capital IQ, S&P Indices, Platts energy information services and J.D. Power and Associates. With sales of $6.2 billion in 2011, the Corporation has approximately 23,000 employees across more than 280 offices in 40 countries. Additional information is available at http://www.mcgraw-hill.com/.
Media Relations Contacts:
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 SCANA Energy is ranked separately from SCANA Energy Regulated Division. The SCANA Energy Regulated Division provides natural gas service to low-income and elderly customers and to individuals whose credit history prohibits them from obtaining service from other gas retailers.