Consumers rate utilities high on hurricane response in J.D. Power survey

irma recovery worker nov 2 elp

Power utilities stood out as the most helpful entities to residents hit by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. They were seen as proactive, responsive and flexible at a time when customers needed those qualities most.

At the same time, a J.D. Power survey shows that a sizable number of consumers were still unhappy with their service providers, upset about perceived slow response times and inexact estimates on power restoration efforts.

“Electric utilities were seen, by far, as being the most helpful in their response to the hurricanes in Texas and Florida,” reads J.D. Power’s release on the Pulse Survey. “But they were also the subject of a great deal of criticism. This stands to reason given the scale of damage and the wide variability of damage experienced from one customer to the next.”

More than 30 percent of respondents said their electricity provider was the most helpful of all others during Harvey and Irma, which collectively impacted states like Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

“They were very proactive at all times,” read one comment cited by J.D. Power. “Consistent updates and news. Road map to getting assistance afterwards,” gushed another respondent.

This rating was tops among service providers listed, far above second-place cellular companies and local governments at slightly less than 15 percent.

U.S. Department of Energy statistics indicate that more than 300,000 customers, mostly in Texas, lost power immediately when Harvey made landfall in August. Several million customers served by Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy and other utilities suffered outages due to Irma’s input.

Federal government agencies such as FEMA and also cable providers were deemed the least helpful, although natural gas providers had the lowest percentage assessing them as most helpful.

Electric utilities clearly gained the most visible profile during the hurricanes, according to the survey. For more than 10 percent of respondents tagged them as “least helpful,” second only to cable providers.

The electricity providers were lauded for constantly updating customers via numerous channels and even replacing microwaves damaged during power surges. Yet others found fault with some utilities’ alleged lack of clarity and consistency after reconnecting them to the grid.

“Power kept going off for the whole week after it was originally restored, without an explanation why,” read one comment.

The J.D. Power Pulse Survey on the hurricanes and recovery efforts included responses from 1,500 residential and business customers. These early results are part of a long-term, larger study evaluating how those entities respond to natural disasters.

The upcoming DistribuTECH Conference and Exhibition will feature a special Mega Session on how utilities handled the demands and damages of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. The January 24 session will feature speakers from AEP Texas, CenterPoint Energy, Florida Power & Light and PA Consulting.

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