- J.D. Power's annual study on residential utility customer satisfaction found an increase in power outages and pricing information increased residential power customer satisfaction for the sixth consecutive year.
- The study notes more than 65% of residential utility customers surveyed are receiving critical information during a power outage, including the cause, number of those impacted and time estimates on when power will be restored. Customers who receive that information report a higher overall rate of satisfaction versus those who do not.
- Other findings include: more customers are moving over to electronic bill payments; customers believe infrastructure is being updated; and website access is shifting toward mobile. The study notes that pricing information is also key, with consumers rating their utilities higher for easier digestion of pricing numbers and "fairness" of pricing.
While utilities have long been used to building power plants and delivering electricity, engaging with consumers on their usage of energy and associated technologies is relatively new to them. The phrase "customer engagement" only recently entered the power sector's lexicon as consumers clamored for more control over their energy consumption.
That trend — along with consumers using digital and mobile technology to pay bills and even control their homes — has led utilities to offer more bill pay options and home energy technologies to customers. More consumers are shifting to web and mobile platforms to pay bills, and utilities are increasingly using digital means to communicate with their customers.
Those choices are beginning to pay off: On a 1,000 point scale, utility consumer satisfaction rose 39 points from 2016 to 719 in 2017.
Utilities have invested in new technologies to increase consumer engagement. Smart thermostats, mobile apps and partnerships with third-party technology providers are some of the key trends among utilities looking to interact more with consumers and meet their demands for more control and cleaner energy resources.
But utilities still have a ways to go, despite dedicating larger teams to consumer engagement. Electric utilities implement customer programs at a slower pace compared to other industries, John Hazen, senior director of the energy practice at J.D. Power, said in a statement.