In satisfying electric utility business customers, Central Maine Power, Omaha Public Power District, Portland General Electric and Progress Energy Carolinas each rank highest in their respective regions, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study released today.

The study is based on interviews with representatives of more than 15,400 U.S. businesses that spend between $500 and $50,000 monthly on electricity. Ninety utility brands—serving a total of more than 33,000 business customers—are included in the study. Overall customer satisfaction is measured by examining six factors: power quality and reliability; billing and payment; corporate citizenship; price; communications; and customer service.

“In each region, the highest-ranked brand is a first-time J.D. Power and Associates award recipient for this study,” said Alan Destribats, vice president of the energy utility practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “The emergence of these brands is particularly impressive, considering the current state of the economy. Businesses are evaluating the value of the services they pay for with an increasingly critical eye, and these brands still manage to make strong showings, despite this close scrutiny.”

East Region
Central Maine Power is the highest-ranking electric utility in the East Region with an overall customer satisfaction index score of 673. Other strong performers in the region are Rochester Gas & Electric, Appalachian Power and Public Service of New Hampshire.

Midwest Region
Omaha Public Power District ranks highest in the Midwest Region with an overall score of 701. Other utilities in the region with strong performances include Kentucky Utilities, Wisconsin Public Service and We Energies.

South Region
Progress Energy Carolinas ranks highest in the South Region with an overall customer satisfaction index score of 678. Other utilities with strong performances in the South Region include Gulf Power, Entergy Mississippi, Alabama Power and Duke Energy-Carolinas.

West Region
Portland General Electric ranks highest in the West Region, achieving a score of 669. Other utilities performing particularly well in the region include Salt River Project, Pacific Power and Avista.

The study finds that 47 percent of business customers recall advertisements or other communications from their utility company in 2009—up from 40 percent in 2008. Among customers who recall receiving a communication from their utility, overall satisfaction is 75 points higher, on average, compared with satisfaction among customers who have no recollection of one. However, customers recall receiving fewer communications in 2009—an average of 6.2, compared with 7.7 in 2008.

“Many utility companies realize that proactively communicating with customers—particularly regarding topics such as power supply availability, energy efficiency rebates and product and service offers—has a considerable positive impact on overall satisfaction,” said Destribats. “However, it is also important for utility brands to note that the frequency of these communications matters as well. It isn’t enough to reach out only a handful of times to your customers. Satisfaction peaks when customers recall receiving between six to nine communications from their utility company per year.”

The study results include the following key findings:

  • Overall satisfaction is considerably higher—by at least 100 points, on average—among business customers who are aware of their utility’s corporate citizenship efforts, compared with customers who report no awareness.
  • Business customers who select optional rate pricing plans (such as green power, time-of-use, interruptible and real-time rates) are notably more satisfied than customers with general service rate plans. Among customers with optional rate plans, those with green rates are the most satisfied.
  • Utility Web sites are a particularly satisfying source of information and service. Among those customers who experienced a power outage, satisfaction levels are higher when power outage information is obtained through the utility’s Web site rather than through other channels. In addition, satisfaction is higher among customers who pay their electricity bill on their utility’s Web site, compared with customers who pay through the mail, phone, in person or via other electronic methods.
The 2009 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 15,434 online interviews among business customers of the 90 largest utility brands across the United States. The study was fielded from April to June 2008 and September to December 2008.