Business Customer Satisfaction with Electric Utilities Rallies in Second Half of 2021, J.D. Power Finds
Improving Business Optimism and More Frequent Outreach Efforts Combine to Lift Satisfaction
Despite a decline in overall business customer satisfaction with electric utilities from 2020, results have climbed considerably in the second half of 2021. According to the J.D. Power 2021 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study,SM released today, a combination of steadily improving business optimism and visible utility efforts to increase customer contact have helped spur a rise in customer satisfaction.
"Many businesses started out the year dealing with challenges brought on by the pandemic, especially around costs," said Adrian Chung, director of utilities intelligence at J.D. Power. "We saw this reflected through customers’ lower satisfaction with their electric utilities but didn’t anticipate a swing in the second half as scores increased 24 points. Two things happened to drive that trend. First, there was an increase of seven percentage points in the number of businesses that said they are better off financially now than a year ago. Perhaps more importantly, though, there was an increase in customer outreach on the part of utilities, leading to positive effects on their relationships with businesses."
Following are some key findings of the 2021 study:
- Business customer satisfaction power surge: Overall business customer satisfaction with electric utilities this year is 786 (on a 1,000-point scale), which is down from 793 a year ago. What that headline number obscures, however, is the massive 24-point increase in the second half of study fielding. By itself, the overall satisfaction score for the second wave of the study (798) is the highest single-wave score ever recorded in this study.
- High-voltage customer contact: Nearly three-fourths (74%) of business customers indicated having some form of direct contact with their utility. This included increased interaction in the second wave of the study through proactive outreach via e-mail, phone or face-to-face visit (27%); via web (34%); and mobile app (19%).
- More customers now have an assigned account rep: The number of business customers saying that they have an assigned account representative increased from 33% in the first wave of the study to 39% in the second wave. A dedicated account representative is associated with a 73-point lift in overall customer satisfaction.
- Rates may be on the rise: After several months of late payment forgiveness and relatively stable rates, during the second wave of the study, 39% of business customers say they are aware of a planned rate increase.
Within each of the four U.S. 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 40,000-84,999 business customers). The East Midsize and West Midsize regions are not award eligible because they did not have sufficient sample size from enough providers. The following utilities rank highest in business customer satisfaction in their respective region:
- East Large: PPL Electric Utilities
- Midwest Large: Ohio Edison (for a second consecutive year)
- Midwest Midsize: Kentucky Utilities (for a third consecutive year)
- South Large: Florida Power & Light
- South Midsize: Public Service Co. of Oklahoma
- West Large: SRP
The 2021 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study, now in its 23rd year, measures 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.
Overall satisfaction is examined across six factors (listed in order of importance): power quality and reliability; price; billing and payment; corporate citizenship; customer contact; and communications.
The study is based on responses from 16,834 online interviews of business customers in decision-making roles related to their utility company. The study was fielded from February through October 2021.
For more information about the J.D. Power Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study, visit https://www.jdpower.com/business/utilities/electric-utility-business-customer-satisfaction-study.
About J.D. Power
J.D. Power is a global leader in consumer insights, advisory services and data and analytics. A pioneer in the use of big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithmic modeling capabilities to understand consumer behavior, J.D. Power has been delivering incisive industry intelligence on customer interactions with brands and products for more than 50 years. The world's leading businesses across major industries rely on J.D. Power to guide their customer-facing strategies.
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