- Business customers are increasingly satisfied with their electric utilities, according to J.D. Power's annual rankings, released today, which found overall satisfaction rose 18 points on a 1,000-point scale compared to last year due to better communication efforts and price improvements.
- But the report also revealed a growing divide between utilities focused on customer service and those which are not. According to J.D. Power, the gap between the highest- and lowest-performing individual utility has increased to a 13-year high of 192 points.
- Entergy Texas (831 points) was the highest-scoring utility in the report, followed by Georgia Power (828), El Paso Electric (820) and Salt River Project (818). Central Maine Power (639) was the only utility evaluated to score less than 700 points.
Overall utility satisfaction is rising among business customers, as providers leverage new communication tools while delivering cheaper power. But J.D. Power's annual assessment also finds satisfaction is lagging where utilities are not focused on improvements.
"Electric utilities around the country have been ramping up their communications efforts, often addressing everything from mobile alerts about outages to updates on citizenship initiatives," Adrian Chung, director of utilities intelligence at J.D. Power, said in a statement. "Many top-performing utilities are getting that formula right. ... However, several utilities are still missing the mark by not focusing on these areas that drive customer satisfaction."
Those making strides are visibly maintaining their infrastructure and leveraging technology to communicate timely information with businesses, said Chung.
The survey found business customer satisfaction was almost 200 points higher when customers perceived their utility was making efforts to maintain infrastructure, relative to those customers who were unaware or perceived their utility doing no maintenance.
"Amid continued global media attention on the recent Northern California wildfires, awareness regarding infrastructure maintenance is lowest among customers in the Western region of the United States," J.D. Power said.
Pacific Gas & Electric is ranked lowest among large western utilities. The California utility has been forced to utilize power shutoffs to reduce the risk of sparking new wildfires.
Environmental initiatives generate a positive impact on customer satisfaction, but there is also generally a "low awareness" of the work.
Less than half of business customers are aware of electric utilities efforts to improve their influence on the environment, the report found. Yet when customers are are aware of environmental initiatives, it is associated with a 200-point increase in the utility’s corporate citizenship satisfaction score, the report noted.
The J.D. Power study has been running more than two decades and measures satisfaction among business customers of 87 targeted U.S. electric utilities, each serving more than 40,000 business customers.
In the east region, Exelon subsidiary Baltimore Gas & Electric was the top-scoring large utility; Delmarva was the top-scoring mid-sized utility. In the midwest, MidAmerican Energy and Kentucky Utilities took those honors, respectively. In the south, Georgia Power and Entergy Texas were top scorers in those two categories. Salt River Project and El Paso Electric were leaders in the west region.
While J.D. Power issued a press release today with a high level overview of its latest findings, the detailed results of the annual study have not been released publicly at this time, the company told Utility Dive.