WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., March 16, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Overall satisfaction with gas utilities among business customers is flat from 2010, due in large part to dissatisfaction with communications from gas utility providers, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Gas Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study(SM) released today.
Now in its sixth year, the study measures business customer satisfaction with their gas utility company in four regions: East, Midwest, South and West. Satisfaction is measured by examining six factors: billing and payment; corporate citizenship; price; communications; customer service; and field service.
In 2011, overall satisfaction among business customers of gas utilities averages 651 on a 1,000-point scale, compared with 652 in 2010. Among the six factors examined in the study, satisfaction with the communications factor declines most notably, to an average of 591 in 2011 from 608 in 2010. For the first time since the study's inception, satisfaction with communications is lower than satisfaction with price, which has historically been the least-satisfying aspect of gas utility service among business customers. Gas utilities are demonstrating particular deficits in communications around energy-savings programs and communicating with business customers via websites.
In 2011, fewer than one-third (32%) of business customers of gas utilities indicate they are familiar with their provider's energy-savings programs—a rate significantly lower than that of electric utility business customers, which averages more than 50 percent. Furthermore, familiarity rates among gas utility business customers have remained mostly flat during the past three years, increasing only slightly from 30 percent in 2009. In contrast, familiarity of energy-savings programs among business customers of electric utilities averages 55 percent in 2011, and has increased from 45 percent in 2009.(1)
Business customers who indicate that they are familiar with their gas utility's energy-savings programs are significantly more satisfied with price, compared with customers who say they are not aware of these programs, by a difference of 112 points (669 vs. 557).
"Business customers expect gas utilities to provide them energy-efficiency and conservation programs that will help them lower their bill amounts and demonstrate the utilities' dedication to helping the environment," said Chris Oberle, senior director of the energy practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "The gap in awareness between gas utility business customers and electric utility business customers underscores that there is ample opportunity for gas providers to increase satisfaction by showing commitment to this important topic."
The study also finds that the proportion of business customers who contacted their gas utility via the website for information and service has steadily declined during the past three years. In 2011, just 22 percent of customers visited their utility's website for service, compared with 48 percent in 2009.
"During the past several years, business customers have been moving away from using the utility website as an information resource," said Oberle. "To remedy this decrease in website traffic, gas utility websites need to improve by offering useful, fresh content that continues to draw customers back to their sites."
New Jersey Natural gas ranks highest in the East Region with an index score of 669. Following in the regional rankings are National Fuel Gas (664) and Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania (662).
MidAmerican Energy ranks highest in the Midwest Region for a third consecutive year and achieves a score of 693. Following MidAmerican Energy in the regional rankings are Wisconsin Public Service (686) and Louisville Gas & Electric (674).
In the South Region, Texas Gas Service ranks highest for a second consecutive year with a score of 710. South Carolina Electric & Gas (696) and Alagasco (686) follow in the regional rankings.
Southwest Gas ranks highest in the West Region with a score of 701. Following in the regional rankings are NW Natural (694) and Avista Utilities (680).
The study findings also include the following key trends:
- The percentage of business customers of gas utilities who report that they recall receiving a communication from their utility has decreased to 43 percent in 2011 from 48 percent in 2010.
- The percentage of business customers who report that the financial status of their business is better than the previous year has improved to 20 percent in 2011 from 15 percent in 2010. Similarly, the percentage of customers who say their business is worse off financially than the previous year has declined from 34 percent in 2010 to 24 percent in 2011.
The 2011 Gas Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study is based on online interviews with representatives of more than 7,600 U.S. businesses that spend between $200 and $50,000 monthly on natural gas. More than 55 utility brands—each serving more than 25,000 business customers—are included in the study. The study was fielded from June to July 2010 and October to December 2010.
(1) Source: J.D. Power and Associates Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study(SM), 2009-2011
Customer Satisfaction Index Ranking
(Based on a 1,000-point scale)
New Jersey Natural Gas
National Fuel Gas
Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania
Public Service Electric & Gas
East Region Average
Baltimore Gas and Electric
Philadelphia Gas Works
Wisconsin Public Service
Louisville Gas & Electric
Missouri Gas Energy
Black Hills Energy
Midwest Region Average
Columbia Gas of Ohio
Dominion East Ohio Gas
Kansas Gas Service
Ameren Illinois Utilities
Note: Atmos Energy–Midwest is included in the study but not ranked due to small sample size.
Texas Gas Service
South Carolina Electric & Gas
Piedmont Natural Gas
South Region Average
Oklahoma Natural Gas
Southern California Gas Company
San Diego Gas & Electric
West Region Average
Pacific Gas and Electric
Puget Sound Energy
Note: Cascade Natural Gas, Intermountain Gas Company, Montana-Dakota Utilities, New Mexico Gas Company, and NorthWestern Energy are included in the study but not ranked due to small sample size.
About J.D. Power and Associates
Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services company providing forecasting, performance improvement, social media and customer satisfaction insights and solutions. 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
Founded in 1888, The McGraw-Hill Companies is a leading global financial information and education company that helps professionals and students succeed in the Knowledge Economy. Leading brands include Standard & Poor's, McGraw-Hill Education, Platts energy information services and J.D. Power and Associates. The Corporation has approximately 21,000 employees with more than 280 offices in 40 countries. Sales in 2010 were $6.2 billion. Additional information is available at http://www.mcgraw-hill.com.
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SOURCE J.D. Power and Associates