COSTA MESA, Calif.: 10 February 2016 — Safety and reliability is the most important driver of customer satisfaction and along with awareness of a local gas storage/pipeline facility have a significant impact on satisfaction among business customers with their gas utility, according to the J.D. Power 2016 Gas Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study,SM released today.

Now in its 11th year, the study measures business customer satisfaction with their gas utility company in four regions: East, Midwest, South and West. Each of the 61 brands included in the study serve more than 25,000 business customers, or more than 4 million customers in total. Overall satisfaction is measured by examining six factors (listed in order of importance): safety and reliability (25%); billing and payment (17%); corporate citizenship (15%); customer service (15%); price (15%); and communications (13%). The study has been restructured for 2016 and now includes safety and reliability as one of the primary factors contributing to business customer satisfaction. Overall customer satisfaction is 737 on a 1,000-point scale.

The 2016 Gas Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 10,635 online interviews with business customers who spend at least $150 monthly on gas. The study was fielded from April through July 2015 and August through December 2015.

While satisfaction with the gas utility industry continues to improve, maintaining a safe gas system, providing a reliable gas service and clarity of information about gas safety have become a hot button and are the most important drivers of business customer satisfaction. Study findings show that 51% of business customers say they were informed about the location of storage/pipeline facilities in their local community. When utilities communicate this information, safety and reliability satisfaction increases by 113 points. On average, business customers recall having heard about pipeline safety two times in the past six months. 

Proactive communication―i.e., outbound contact via email, in-person visit or phone call―plays an important role when it comes to providing customers with information about safety. Proactive contacts from an account representative are highly satisfying for business customers, representing a 97-point increase in overall satisfaction (792 vs. 695 no contact).

“Despite recent news about massive gas leaks and property loss across the country, safety has always been the top priority for gas utilities,” said Carl Lepper, senior industry analyst, utility & infrastructure practice at J.D. Power. “Our gas utility study results highlight the importance that business customers place on safety, especially awareness of a local gas storage/pipeline facility and its impact on satisfaction with the utility. Not only do customers want their gas delivered safely, they want their utility to communicate information about dangerous situations and disruption of service, and they want to receive ongoing information about preventive safety measures. Frequent communication goes a long way when it comes to business customer satisfaction.”

With nearly half of businesses unaware of the location of the natural gas infrastructure in their area, “utilities need to do a much better job letting their business customers know where pipelines and facilities are located," said Lepper.

Following are additional findings of the 2016 study:

  • Knowing About and Using Programs and Services Are Satisfying: Adoption and awareness of programs and services have an impact on customer satisfaction. Overall satisfaction is higher among business customers using one or more program offerings than among those using no programs (793 vs. 708, respectively). There is a 127-point gap in satisfaction between customers who are aware of one or more offerings and those who are not aware of any (746 vs. 619, respectively).
  • Recall of Digital Communication at All-Time High: Recall of communication through a digital channel, such as email and website, increases satisfaction to all-time high of 811, and is the second most satisfying communication method following direct communication from an account representative.

Study Rankings

The industry results for the 2016 study are reported across four U.S. geographic regions: East, Midwest, South and West. The following utilities rank highest in customer satisfaction in their respective region:

  • East Region: Con Edison and Washington Gas in a tie              
  • Midwest Region: Xcel Energy - Midwest     
  • South Region: Alagasco and TECO Peoples Gas in a tie
  • West Region: Questar Gas

Media Relations Contacts

John Tews; Troy, Mich.; 248-680-6218; [email protected]

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Media Contacts:

John Tews

Troy, Michigan

(248) 680-6218