Study: 65 percent of utilities are providing better customer experience

Boulder, Colo., July 21, 2011 — Consumers are enjoying a better experience when calling their electric and gas companies' interactive voice response systems (IVRs) compared to previous years, according to the "E Source Review of North American Electric and Gas Company IVRs: 2011."

E Source found that 65 percent of the electric and gas companies reviewed improved the usability of their IVRs. In addition, none of the utility IVRs reviewed in 2011 are considered to be "very poor," unlike some of the IVRs reviewed in 2009.

The top-rated electric and gas company IVRs belong to Duke Energy, Portland General Electric, Florida Power & Light Co., NorthWestern Energy, Arizona Public Service, and Cleco. The top-rated Canadian utility IVR belongs to Union Gas Limited.

E Source's comprehensive benchmark study, which has been conducted biennially since 2004, measures the performance of North American electric and gas company IVRs in meeting the needs of residential consumers.

This year, 96 U.S. and Canadian IVRs were reviewed from the residential consumer's perspective, with a focus on how well they functioned for the key tasks that consumers expect to find on electric and gas company IVRs. The reviewers judged how usable they are—or how user-friendly it was to accomplish the tasks.

Florence Connally, associate research director at E Source, says, "Providing a better experience with the IVR will lead to a better interaction with the customer service representative as well as encourage customers to take the next step and make use of self-service options available on the IVR."

For the first time, reviews were also conducted using mobile phones. Two tasks, Make a Payment and Report an Outage or Emergency, were reviewed solely from mobile phones. "As more consumers rely on their mobile phones or live in mobile-only households, the experience of navigating a company's IVR from a mobile phone cannot be ignored," says Sarah Fiebiger, senior research associate at E Source.

Northeastern U.S.: Allegheny Power, Duquesne Light, and Baltimore Gas and Electric had the top-performing IVRs in this region.

Midwestern U.S.: The top three IVRs in this region belong to DTE Energy, KCP&L, and OG&E.

Southern U.S.: Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light Co., and Cleco were named as the top utility IVRs in the southern region.

West U.S.: Portland General Electric, NorthWestern Energy, and Arizona Public Service have the top three IVRs in this region.

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