Business customer satisfaction with their electric utility has hit its highest mark since 2009, based primarily on a substantial year-over-year increase in satisfaction with power quality and reliability, which, in turn, is driven by a significant improvement in utilities' efforts to provide more accurate outage information, according to the J.D. Power 2015 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction StudySM.
The study measures satisfaction among business customers of 101 U.S. electric utilities, each of which serves more than 25,000 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; billing and payment; corporate citizenship; price; communications; and customer service. Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale.
Reaching its highest score in the past seven years, overall satisfaction among electric utility business customers is 677 in 2015, compared with 617 in 2009 — a significant 60-point increase. Additionally, satisfaction increases by 15 points from 2014 (662). Performance improvement in 2015 is driven by a sharp year-over-year rise in satisfaction with power quality and reliability (+19 points), which is bolstered by a notable improvement in utilities' efforts to provide more accurate information about outages.
In addition, this is the second consecutive year of improvement for more than 80 percent of the electric utilities included in the study, regardless of whether they rank among the highest- or lowest-performing companies.
"It's important to note that many electric utilities that have traditionally ranked at the low end of the overall index now include in their business goals initiatives that are aimed at improving customer satisfaction," said Andrew Heath, director of the energy practice at J.D. Power. "Among those utilities, several are posting substantial increases in satisfaction as a result. When utilities highly satisfy its customer base, there is a quantifiable positive impact on profitability and credit ratings for the utility."
- Power quality and reliability satisfaction among business customers who receive outage information (713) is 143 points higher than among those who do not receive such outage information (570).
- Utility communications positively impact satisfaction. Overall communications satisfaction among customers who recall receiving a communication from their utility is 74 points higher than among those who do not recall any communication. The percentage of business customers recalling a communication from their utility has increased to 55% in 2015 from 51% in 2014.
- Online account setup among business customers has grown to 57% in 2015 from 33% in 2009. Nearly three-fourths (72%) of business customers resolve their problem or issue online during the first contact, compared with 69% of those who resolve their problem by phone during the first contact.
- Overall satisfaction is highest among industrial business customers (682) and lowest among healthcare customers (675).
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:
PSE&G ranks highest among large electric utility providers in the East Region, with a score of 685. Among midsize electric utilities in the East Region, Delmarva Power ranks highest with a score of 691.
In the Midwest Region, MidAmerican Energy (718) ranks highest among large electric utilities for a second consecutive year. Omaha Public Power District (728) ranks highest among midsize utilities.
Georgia Power (731) ranks highest among large utilities in the South Region for a third consecutive year. Among midsize electric utilities, Gulf Power ranks highest (731).
SRP (Salt River Project) ranks highest among large electric utilities in the West Region for a second consecutive year, with a score of 741. Among midsize electric utility providers, Seattle City Light ranks highest with a score of 716.
The 2015 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 22,857 online interviews with business customers who spend at least $200 monthly on electricity. The study was fielded from April through June 2014 and July through November 2014.