- A pair of new customer satisfaction surveys illustrate how far the utility sector has to go and how slowly it is improving, in spite of the rapid changes sweeping the industry.
- J.D. Power has finalized the results of its 2018 Utility Digital Experience Study, concluding "utilities are among the lowest-performing industry group" when it comes to websites, mobile apps, social media and more.
- Separately, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released a survey showing only slight improvement, and noting that "customer satisfaction with utilities grew at a crawl."
Alabama Power customers have the best digital experience in the utility industry, according to a new survey released by J.D. Power. The firm has released its first J.D. Power 2018 Utility Digital Experience Study, examining customer perceptions of utility websites, mobile apps, social media and other digital tools. The survey examined 67 of the largest electric, natural gas and water utilities in the United States, and was completed with assistance from Centric Digital.
The survey results reflect customers' changing expectations of utility services and communications. And reveals how far they have to go. Despite advances in many sectors, like retail and banking, Andrew Heath, Senior Director of the Utilities Practice at J.D. Power, said "interacting with their utilities ... often seems like a step back into the dark ages of technology."
"Utilities know this is a problem, and many have put in place initiatives to address it," Heath added. J.D. Power is trying to develop a "reliable playbook for what works."
The survey found utilities were among lowest-performing industries. On a 1,000-point scale, the utility industry averaged 571, compared with the retail sector's 771. But some utilities did fare well: Alabama Power scored 879, well ahead of the industry average.
The utilities which fared well in the survey utilized platforms that display large amounts of information, J.D. Power said, including usage, account information and payment information. "The ability to clearly and easily view usage information is the top driver of a positive website/app experience," the firm concluded.
While the utility sector is undergoing rapid advances with technology, efficiency, distributed resources and renewable power, ACSI's data shows overall customer experience is largely stagnant.
According to the index, utility customer satisfaction grew only 0.4% in 2017 to an ACSI score of 75.2 on a 100-point scale. This is likely due to an "increasingly competitive [energy] landscape," ACSI Managing Director David VanAmburg said in a statement.
"The emergence of distributed generation, the rise of renewable energy sources, and the relatively low cost of natural gas are starting to shift the tides," he added.
ACSI shows all municipal utilities and public power agencies improved their customer satisfaction scores, with the Salt River Project remaining highest-ranked after a 3% gain to 80 points. CPS Energy also rose 3% to a 75. The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power scored 70, a 1% advance over the previous year.
Among investor-owned utilities, CenterPoint Energy's score of 82 puts it in the top spot, with a 4% increase year-over-year. Atmos Energy ranked second, followed by Southern Co., Consolidated Edison, Dominion Energy, NiSource and PPL.
Cooperative utilities were the single category to witness overall lower satisfaction, the survey found. The one named company, Touchstone Energy, fell 1% to a score of 77.