When power outages occur, providing business customers with accurate estimates of power restoration times are critical to maintaining customer satisfaction, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study. Among customers who experience a power outage, satisfaction with power quality and reliability averages 729 (on a 1,000-point scale) when power is restored by the time estimated by the electric provider. However, if power restoration occurs after the estimated time, satisfaction declines to an average of 576, a difference of more than 150 points.
Within each geographic region 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 29,000 and 84,999 business customers). Rankings within each region and segment are as follows:
PPL, Delmarva Excel in East
PPL Electric Utilities ranks highest among large electric utility providers in the East region for a second consecutive year with a score of 654, compared to a 627 regional average. Among midsize electric utilities in the East Region, Delmarva Power ranks highest at 667, compared to a 628 regional average.
Xcel, Mid-American Mollify Midwest
In the Midwest region, Xcel Energy-Midwest ranks highest among large electric utilities with a score of 661, compared to a 627 regional average, while MidAmerican Energy ranks highest among midsize brands with a score of 706, compared to a 652 regional average.
Alabama Power, OK Gas Succeed in South
Alabama Power ranks highest among large utilities in the South Region with a score of 683, compared to a regional average of 655. Among midsize electric utilities, Oklahoma Gas and Electric ranks highest with a score of 687, compared to a regional average of 660.
Salt River, Sacramento Municipal Win West
For a second consecutive year, Salt River Project ranks highest among large electric utilities in the West Region with a score of 706 compared to a regional average of 648, and Sacramento Municipal Utility District ranks highest among midsize electric utility providers with a score of 690, compared to a regional average of 665.
Overall Satisfaction Down Slightly
Overall satisfaction averages 642 in 2011, a slight decrease of four points from 2010. With the exception of billing and payment, each of the factors included in the study has decreased from 2010, with the largest declines occurring in the power quality and reliability factor (down seven points) and the customer service factor (down five points). The billing and payment factor improves by four points from 2010.
The study also finds that a notable shift in bill payment methods has occurred in 2011. Significantly fewer customers pay their electric bill by mail in 2011 (48%), compared with 2010 (54%). Business customers increasingly rely on online payment via their bank’s website. J.D. Power analysis shows this method is considerably more satisfying than payment by mail.
Comprehensive Outage Info Crucial
The study further finds that providing comprehensive information about outages has a notable positive effect on satisfaction with power quality and reliability. Among business customers who contact their utility for information about an outage, satisfaction levels are highest among those who received at least three points of information. Satisfaction is lowest among customers who only received one piece of information.
Residential Customers Happier with Gas Utilities
Residential customers of gas utility companies are notably more satisfied with their utility providers, compared with 2009, as a result of lower bill amounts, more frequent communication and improved perceptions of corporate citizenship, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 Gas Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study.
About the Data: The J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study is based on interviews with representatives of more than 17,000 U.S. businesses that spend between $500 and $50,000 monthly on electricity. More than 90 utility brands serving a total of more than 11.7 million business customers are included in the study, which is the source of the enclosed charts.