Proactive Communication, Including Using Digital and Social Media, Is Key to Improved Business Customer Satisfaction with Electric Utility Companies

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Satisfaction Improves for 79 of the 93 Utility Providers Included in the Study

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: 12 February 2014 — Improved proactive communication using such direct and electronic channels as text messages, email notifications and blogs is helping electric utility providers improve satisfaction among their business customers, according to the J.D. Power 2014 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction StudySM released today.

The study includes U.S. electric utilities each serving more than 25,000 businesses. More than 90 utility brands serving a total of  nearly 12 million business customers are included in the study. Overall customer satisfaction is measured by examining six factors: power quality and reliability; billing and payment; corporate citizenship; price; communications; and customer service.

Overall satisfaction among electric utility business customers averages 662 (on a 1,000-point scale), an improvement from 647 in 2013. Communications satisfaction increases by 68 points when customers receive communications from their utility provider. Communications methods that generate the highest communication satisfaction scores are blogs (771); in-person visits by utility representative (757); text messages (753); and utility social media site (745).

KEY FINDINGS 

  • Overall satisfaction improves in each of the six factors year over year, with the greatest increases in price (+18 points) and communications (+16).
  • Satisfaction is lowest among small-business customers. Overall satisfaction among businesses spending $250 to $499 per month on their electric bill averages just 655, while satisfaction among the larger business sizes averages 665.
  • Slightly less than one-third (32%) of business customers are aware of their utility's efforts to increase the general safety of the electric system. Overall satisfaction among customers who are aware of such efforts is 116 points higher than among those who are not aware (741 vs. 625, respectively). 
  • Power quality and reliability satisfaction among business customers who experience a power outage and receive information regarding the outage is 691, compared with 558 among those who do not receive any outage information. Power quality and reliability satisfaction is highest among customers who receive outage information proactively from their utility (745) and lowest among those who did not receive any outage information proactively from their utility (673). 
  • Satisfaction improves for 79 of the 93 utility providers included in the study, compared with 2013. 

"The biggest declines for utilities with satisfaction scores the same or lower than in 2013 are in customer service, which is an area they have total control over," said Jeff Conklin, senior director of the energy practice at J.D. Power. "Customer expectations are increasing and utilities need to keep up with them. The greatest struggle for utilities being left behind is their business customers' online experience--an area they can directly address." 

Study Rankings

Within each of the four geographic regions included in the study, utility providers are classified into one of two segments: large (serving 85,000 or more business customers) and midsize (serving between 25,000 and 84,999 business customers). Rankings within each region and segment are as follows:

East Region

PPL Electric Utilities ranks highest among large electric utility providers in the East Region for the second consecutive year, with a score of 681. Among midsize electric utilities in the East Region, Central Hudson Gas & Electric (676) ranks highest.

Midwest Region

In the Midwest Region, MidAmerican Energy (697) ranks highest among large electric utilities. Indianapolis Power & Light Company ranks highest among midsize brands for the second consecutive year, with a score of 696. 

South Region

Georgia Power (713) ranks highest among large utilities in the South Region for the second consecutive year. Among midsize electric utilities, Entergy Texas ranks highest for the second consecutive year, with a score of 700.

West Region

Salt River Project (713) ranks highest among large electric utilities in the West Region. Among midsize electric utility providers, Sacramento Municipal Utility District ranks highest (713).

The 2014 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from more than 23,700 online interviews with business customers that spend at least $250 monthly on electricity. The study was fielded from April through June 2013 and September through December 2013.

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