Programs, awareness, engagement drive utility satisfaction

Satisfaction levels for utilities increase when customers are aware and engaged in multiple program offerings, according to the J.D. Power 2014 Consumer Engagement Study.

The study, now in its second year, measures the level of residential customers' engagement with their electric utility's programs, products and services and is based on responses from customers of electric utilities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The study provides electric utilities with insights regarding customer awareness, familiarity and usage of their utility's programs, products and services; ease of enrollment and participation in these offerings; and the impact these offerings have on the overall customer experience.

"Offering a variety of programs is an important driver of customer satisfaction because one size does not fit all," said Jeff Conklin, senior director of the energy utility practice at J.D. Power. "Utilities need to understand that while some programs are popular and satisfying in one demographic, various programs are necessary to address the needs across all customer segments."

Key findings include:

·      Overall satisfaction climbs as utility program participation increases. Satisfaction among customers who are not aware of any program is 587 (on a 1,000-point scale), compared with 646 among those who are aware of program offerings but do not participate. Satisfaction increases to 655 among customers who participate in one program and increases dramatically, to 834, when customers are engaged in seven or more programs.

·      Engaged customers are oriented toward self-service and do not call their utility often, mitigating contact center call volumes by 21 percent, which helps reduce contact center costs.

·      A majority (60 percent) of customers review their energy usage on a monthly basis, up from 54 percent in 2013. Only 3 percent of all customers review their usage more frequently than monthly.

·      Among the highest-rated utility program offerings (on a 10-point scale) are social media tools that compare usage and old appliance/refrigerator recycling in a tie (8.1 points each), e-bill (7.9) and remote adjust thermostat (7.9). The least satisfying programs include a tool comparing usage to other households (6.9) and time-of-day electric usage price plan (6.8).

·      Products and services with the highest participation rates include e-bill (21 percent), level or equal pay plan (6 percent) and thermostat control (3 percent).

The following utility brands perform particularly well in overall customer engagement through participation in their products or services (in alphabetical order): Arizona Public Service, Baltimore Gas & Electric and Salt River Project. The following brands perform particularly well in overall product or service satisfaction (in alphabetical order): Dominion Virginia Power, FPL and SMUD.

The 2014 Consumer Engagement Study is based on more than 27,000 responses from residential customers of 143 electric utilities that represent many of the industry's leading electric utility brands. The study was fielded in January and February 2014.

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