Communicating with Customers and Higher Price Satisfaction Increase Overall Satisfaction for Residential Electric Utilities

Proactive Communication during Power Outages Remains a Challenge for Utilities

Jul 15, 2015, 09:00 ET from J.D. Power

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., July 15, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Ongoing communication efforts and increased price satisfaction are key drivers behind the third consecutive year of improved overall customer satisfaction with residential electric utility companies, according to the J.D. Power 2015 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction StudySM released today.

The study, now in its 17th year, measures customer satisfaction with electric utility companies by examining six factors: power quality and reliability; price; billing and payment; corporate citizenship; communications; and customer service. Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale.

Overall satisfaction averages 668 in 2015, a 21-point improvement from 2014. A 33-point increase in communications (625) and a 35-point improvement in price (595) are key contributors to the year-over-year improvement in overall satisfaction.

The average monthly bill remains unchanged this year from 2014 at $132 per month; yet, customer satisfaction improves more in the price factor than in any previous year. One contributor to the increase in price satisfaction is that fewer customers have read or heard about a rate increase in 2015, compared with 2014 (32% vs. 38%, respectively), while a slightly higher percentage have read or heard about a rate decrease (4% vs. 3%).

"Utility companies are doing a better job at the fundamentals—minimizing service interruptions, communicating with customers and improving customer service," said John Hazen, senior director of the energy practice at J.D. Power. "Proactive communication during power outages remains a challenge, suggesting that utilities should focus on improving in this area."

The study finds that utility companies are providing critical information during a power outage, such as the cause of the outage, the number of customers impacted and more accurate estimates on when power will be restored. However, proactive communications—i.e., when a utility calls, emails, or sends a text message—are only reaching 7.3 percent of customers, a slight increase from 5.6 percent in 2014. Power quality and reliability satisfaction among customers who receive proactive updates during an outage is significantly higher (777) than among those who do not receive such communications (683).

"The industry knows this is a key component of effective communication, but implementation is not happening fast enough," said Hazen. "Many utility companies are moving in this direction, but the industry as a whole has been slow to institute proactive communications."

Solar Power
Nearly three in 10 customers are considering solar power in the next two years. Slightly more than one-fourth (28%) of customers who do not already have solar power say they "probably will" or "definitely will" consider using solar power in the next two years. The main reasons for considering solar are to reduce their bill, positively impact the environment and protect against rising energy costs. Solar power has had a notable effect in the utility industry. Among customers who currently have solar power, 33 percent have developed a positive opinion of their utility.

"As solar penetration increases utilities must be ready to handle the call volume from customers with questions related to new system installation, ongoing usage and billing," said Hazen. "Until customers become familiar with their solar system, they are three times more likely to call their utility to better understand myriad of issues that arise compared with those that don't have a solar system. Utilities will need to ramp up their incoming and outgoing communications processes to meet the growing demand."

KEY FINDINGS

  • Among the 48 states included in the study, satisfaction is highest among customers in Georgia, Arizona and Utah and lowest among those in Connecticut, West Virginia and Massachusetts.
  • Communications about a utility company's infrastructure are among the topics that most resonate with customers. Communications satisfaction is 767 among customers who indicate that the topic of the most recent communication from their utility was the reliability of electric delivery. Satisfaction among customers whose most recent communication concerned electric system upgrades or improvements is 751. Satisfaction among customers who received communications about price or rate changes averages 683 vs. 625 among those who receive no price or rate communication at all from their utility.
  • Billing and payment satisfaction is higher among customers who receive bill alerts than among those who do not receive such alerts (765 vs. 706, respectively).
  • The majority of customers perceive their electric utility provider as a good corporate citizen, as 62 percent believe their utility supports economic development of local community and 32 percent are aware of their utility's efforts to improve its impact on the environment.

Study Rankings
The Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study ranks midsize and large utility companies in four geographic regions: East, Midwest, South and West. Companies in the midsize utility segment serve between 100,000 and 499,999 residential customers, while companies in the large utility segment serve 500,000 or more residential customers.

East Region
PPL Electric Utilities ranks highest among large utilities in the East region for a fourth consecutive year, with a score of 693. PSE&G (680) ranks second, followed by Duquesne Light (676), Con Edison (673) and BGE (664)

Among midsize utilities in the East region, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative ranks highest for an eighth consecutive year, with a score of 727. Penn Power (674) ranks second; Delmarva Power (669) ranks third; and Green Mountain and Met-Ed (656 each) rank fourth in a tie.

Midwest Region
MidAmerican Energy ranks highest in the large utility segment in the Midwest region for an eighth consecutive year, with a score of 692. DTE Energy (681) ranks second; Alliant Energy (674) ranks third; and Consumers Energy and Xcel-Energy Midwest (670 each) rank fourth in a tie.

Connexus Energy and Otter Tail Power Company tie for highest ranking in the midsize segment in the Midwest region (694 each), making this the first time each utility has ranked highest in this study. Great Lakes Energy (693) ranks third, followed by Kentucky Utilities (691) and Minnesota Power (689).

South Region
OG&E ranks highest in the large utility segment in the South region for a third consecutive year, with a score of 710. Alabama Power ranks second (707); Georgia Power ranks third (705); and CPS Energy and Florida Power & Light (700 each) rank fourth in a tie.

SECO Energy ranks highest in the midsize utility segment in the South region with a score of 749 for the first time, followed closely by NOVEC at 746. Walton EMC ranks third (735); Sawnee EMC (733) ranks fourth; and Jackson EMC (730) ranks fifth.

West Region
Salt River Project (SRP) ranks highest in the large utility segment in the West region for a 14th consecutive year, with a score of 738. SMUD (723) ranks second, followed by Portland General Electric (698), Rocky Mountain Power (696) and APS (692).

Clark Public Utilities ranks highest in the midsize utility segment in the West region for an eighth consecutive year, with a score of 717. Colorado Springs Utilities ranks second (692), followed by Seattle City Light (687), Idaho Power (685) and Tacoma Power (684).

The 2015 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 102,525 online interviews conducted July 2014 through May 2015 among residential customers of 140 electric utility brands across the United States, which collectively represent more than 96 million households.

Overall Customer Satisfaction Index Scores  

(Based on a 1,000-point scale) 




East Large


PPL Electric Utilities

693

PSE&G

680

Duquesne Light

676

Con Edison

673

BGE

664

Central Maine Power

662

PECO

659

Penelec

653

West Penn Power

653

East Large Segment Average

650

NYSEG

644

Jersey Central Power & Light

642

Pepco

640

National Grid

635

Appalachian Power

623

NSTAR

622

Connecticut Light & Power

607

PSEG Long Island

584


Note: NSTAR and Connecticut Light & Power are now a part of Eversource Energy as of February 2015.


East Midsize


Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative    

727

Penn Power

674

Delmarva Power

669

Green Mountain Power

656

Met-Ed

656

Atlantic City Electric

653

Rochester Gas & Electric

650

East Midsize Segment Average

644

Potomac Edison

636

Public Service of New Hampshire

636

Western Massachusetts Electric

628

Central Hudson Gas & Electric

624

Orange & Rockland

623

United Illuminating

618

Emera Maine

614

Mon Power

610


Note: Public Service of New Hampshire and Western Massachusetts Electric are now a part of Eversource Energy as of February 2015.


Midwest Large 


MidAmerican Energy

692

DTE Energy

681

Alliant Energy

674

Consumers Energy

670

Xcel Energy-Midwest

670

Ameren Missouri

666

Ohio Edison

666

Duke Energy-Midwest

664

Ameren Illinois

662

We Energies

661

Midwest Large Segment Average

661

KCP&L

660

ComEd

653

The Illuminating Company

653

Indiana Michigan Power

643

AEP Ohio

633

Westar Energy

617



Midwest Midsize


Connexus Energy

694

Otter Tail Power Company

694

Great Lakes Energy

693

Kentucky Utilities

691

Minnesota Power

689

Omaha Public Power District

688

Lincoln Electric System

682

South Central Power

679

Indianapolis Power & Light

676

Louisville Gas & Electric

671

Midwest Midsize Segment Average

669

Wisconsin Public Service

667

Dayton Power & Light

662

Toledo Edison

660

Madison Gas & Electric

655

NIPSCO

648

Empire District Electric

644

Vectren

626

Kentucky Power

623



South Large


OG&E

710

Alabama Power

707

Georgia Power

705

CPS Energy

700

Florida Power & Light

700

Entergy Arkansas

692

Dominion Virginia Power

684

Entergy Louisiana

682

South Large Segment Average

682

South Carolina Electric & Gas

668

Duke Energy-Carolinas

663

Duke Energy-Progress

655

Tampa Electric

654

Duke Energy-Florida

622



South Midsize


SECO Energy

749

NOVEC

746

Walton EMC

735

Sawnee EMC

733

Jackson EMC

730

CoServ

718

EPB

715

GreyStone Power

705

Santee Cooper

705

EnergyUnited

701

Entergy Texas

699

OUC

696

Cobb EMC

693

Gulf Power

693

JEA

692

Pedernales Electric

692

Rappahannock Electric Cooperative

687

Entergy Mississippi

686

Clay Electric Cooperative

685

Public Service Co. of Oklahoma

684

South Midsize Segment Average

684

Xcel Energy-South

683

Cleco Power

680

Middle Tennessee EMC

673

Lee County Electric Cooperative

669

Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative

669

Mississippi Power

662

MLGW

662

Southwestern Electric Power

659

Lakeland Electric

658

Austin Energy

654

NES

652

Knoxville Utilities Board

648

Huntsville Utilities

637

Entergy New Orleans

632



West Large


SRP

738

SMUD

723

Portland General Electric

698

Rocky Mountain Power

696

APS

692

Pacific Power

690

West Large Segment Average

677

Southern California Edison

676

San Diego Gas & Electric

673

NV Energy

669

Pacific Gas and Electric

669

Puget Sound Energy

668

Xcel Energy-West

652

L. A. Dept. of Water & Power

641



West Midsize


Clark Public Utilities

717

Colorado Springs Utilities

692

Seattle City Light

687

Idaho Power

685

Tacoma Power

684

Intermountain Rural Electric Assoc.

677

Snohomish County PUD

675

Imperial Irrigation District

671

West Midsize Segment Average

671

Avista

669

Tucson Electric Power

669

Montana-Dakota Utilities

665

El Paso Electric

656

NorthWestern Energy

651

PNM

646

Media Relations Contacts
Jeff Perlman; Brandware Public Relations; Woodland Hills, Calif.; 818-317-3070; jperlman@brandwarepr.com
John Tews; Troy, Mich.; 248-680-6218; media.relations@jdpa.com

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SOURCE J.D. Power



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