Satisfaction ratings by business customers for their utilities improved to a record high in the latest J.D. Power study released Wednesday.
Overall approval from electric utility business customers rose for the fourth straight year to 755 points, a 51-point increase over last year. The highest year-over-year increases included price satisfaction at more than 60 points and more than 50 points in communications and customer service.
“Utilities are really beginning to understand the importance of engagement with their business customers, which is reflected in increased communication,” said John Hazen, director in the utility & infrastructure practice at J.D. Power.
Georgia Power ranked first overall and in the large south utility index with 807 points. Winners repeating from last year included Consolidated Edison, East large; Met-Ed, East midsize; Ameren Missouri, Midwest large and Salt River Project, West large.
Salt River Project, which serves Phoenix and other areas in Arizona, topped the Large east electric utilities for the fourth straight year. Georgia Power has ranked first in the South large four of the last five years.
“It’s remarkable how utilities have improved as an industry in understanding the importance of being customer-focused,” Hazen said. “In doing so, they hope to not only improve their financial performance, but also to be viewed more favorably by regulators. Furthermore, business customers are also more supportive of the investment plans utilities have in such projects as updating or developing their infrastructure.”
Other winners include Louisville Gas & Electric, Midwest midsize; Gulf Power, South midsize, and Seattle City Light among the West midsize electric utilities. Salt River Project was second highest in overall rating at 797 points, while Gulf Power scored 793 points.
The study, now in its 18th year, measures satisfaction among business customers of 87 targeted U.S. electric utilities, each of which serves more than 40,000 business customers. In aggregate, these utilities provide electricity to more than 11 million customers.
J.D. Power’s study revealed that in the past six months business customers have experienced an average of 1.9 brief power interruptions (5 minutes or less) and 1.2 outages of longer than five minutes. Those figures were virtually unchanged from last year’s report, but the average duration of the longest outages increased nearly two minutes to 13.7 minutes.
Another key finding was that more than half of business customers have signed up for outage alerts and 66 percent are receiving monthly outage alerts.
Corporate citizen efforts play a growing role in how customers view their utilities. For example, 70 percent of business customers say their electric utility provider supports economic development of the local community; 30 percent have seen utility employees volunteering or working in their community; and 43 percent are aware of their utility provider’s efforts to improve its effect on the environment.