Overall business customer satisfaction with electric utility companies has improved notably from 2011, but satisfaction among businesses with the smallest monthly average electric bills trails behind that of businesses that spend more, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study.

The study is based on interviews with representatives of more than 24,300 U.S. businesses that spend more than $250 monthly on electricity. More than 90 utility brands serving a total of more than 11.7 million 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.

Overall satisfaction among business customers averages 657 on a 1,000-point scale in 2012, an improvement of 15 points from 2011. While satisfaction has improved in all six factors, the greatest gains have occurred in customer service, corporate citizenship and billing and payment.

"Utilities have invested in improving their websites, online bill formats, and business service call centers, which has led to an impressive increase in overall satisfaction," said John Hazen, senior director of the energy utility practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "Customers contacted their utility company by phone and online more frequently in 2012 than in 2011, but utilities still managed to raise satisfaction with customer service despite the increased volume."

While overall satisfaction among business customers has improved in 2012, there are distinct differences in satisfaction between businesses, based on their monthly bill amounts. The study finds that overall satisfaction is highest (averaging 666) among businesses that spend at least $50,000 monthly on electricity. Satisfaction among businesses that spend between $500 and $49,000 each month averages just two points lower—664. However, satisfaction among businesses that spend between $250 and $499 each month on electricity is considerably lower—645, on average.

"Utilities already do a good job of understanding the needs and preferences of larger businesses, and have adapted their communications and operations to best suit the needs of these customers," said Hazen. "However, there is an opportunity to focus on satisfying smaller businesses. This may include reinforcing awareness of energy conservation programs and providing customized business contact."

Within each geographic region included in the study, utility providers are classified into one of two segments: large (serving 85,000 or more business customers) and midsize (serving between 25,000 and 84,999 business customers). Rankings within each region and segment are as follows:

East Region
Jersey Central Power & Light ranks highest among large electric utility providers in the East Region. Among midsize electric utilities in the East Region, Central Maine Power ranks highest.

Midwest Region
In the Midwest Region, MidAmerican Energy ranks highest among large electric utilities and receives an award for a second consecutive year, while Omaha Public Power District ranks highest among midsize brands.

South Region
Alabama Power ranks highest among large utilities in the South Region for a second consecutive year. Among midsize electric utilities, CPS Energy ranks highest.

West Region
For a third consecutive year, SRP (Salt River Project) ranks highest among large electric utilities in the West Region. Among midsize electric utility providers, Idaho Power and SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District) rank highest in a tie.

The study also finds that 16 percent of customers in 2012 indicate they have a smart meter installed at their business. Satisfaction among customers whose businesses have a smart meter installed averages 85 points higher than among business customers without a smart meter (734 vs. 649, respectively). In addition, among business customers who indicate they are not aware of their utility's smart meter or smart grid efforts, satisfaction averages 630. In comparison, satisfaction averages 709 among customers who say they are aware of their utility's smart meter and smart grid efforts.

The 2012 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 24,385 online interviews with business customers of the 95 largest utility brands across the United States. The study was fielded from May to August 2011 and September to December 2011.

Customer Satisfaction Index Scores

(Based on a 1,000-point scale)

East Region: Large Segment

Jersey Central Power & Light

670

PPL Electric Utilities

666

Con Edison

654

PSE&G

646

National Grid

641

East Region Large Segment Average

639

PECO

638

BGE

636

NYSEG

634

NSTAR

625

Connecticut Light & Power

611

Long Island Power Authority

606

Appalachian Power

601

East Region: Midsize Segment

Central Maine Power

667

Met-Ed

660

Atlantic City Electric

654

Rochester Gas & Electric

654

Delmarva Power

652

West Penn Power

639

Penelec

638

East Region Midsize Segment Average

636

Duquesne Light

633

Potomac Edison

628

Public Service of New Hampshire

626

Central Hudson Gas & Electric

625

United Illuminating

610

Orange & Rockland

600

Pepco

590

NOTE: Mon Power is included in the study, but not ranked due to insufficient sample size.

Midwest Region: Large Segment

MidAmerican Energy

707

Xcel Energy-Midwest

682

AEP Ohio

669

We Energies

669

Alliant Energy

668

Kentucky Utilities

664

KCP&L

659

Duke Energy-Midwest

658

Ameren Missouri

655

Midwest Region Large Segment Average

654

Ohio Edison

646

ComEd

642

Consumers Energy

639

Detroit Edison

636

Ameren Illinois

610

Midwest Region: Midsize Segment

Omaha Public Power District

731

Wisconsin Public Service

684

Westar Energy

657

Midwest Region Midsize Segment Average

656

Indianapolis Power & Light

655

Dayton Power & Light

646

Indiana Michigan Power

646

NIPSCO

645

The Illuminating Company

641

Louisville Gas & Electric

638

Toledo Edison

627

South Region: Large Segment

Alabama Power

705

South Carolina Electric & Gas

687

Duke Energy-Carolinas

680

Georgia Power

679

Progress Energy Carolinas

675

South Region Large Segment Average

673

Dominion Virginia Power

668

Florida Power & Light

668

OG&E

664

Entergy Louisiana

661

Entergy Arkansas

654

Progress Energy Florida

641

South Region: Midsize Segment

CPS Energy

690

Southwestern Electric Power

689

Entergy Mississippi

680

Entergy Texas

672

Mississippi Power

671

OUC

670

Austin Energy

667

Public Service Co. of Oklahoma

659

Tampa Electric

659

South Region Midsize Segment Average

659

Gulf Power

646

NES

634

JEA

602

MLGW

585

Included in the study but not ranked due to insufficient sample size are: Cleco Power, Santee Cooper and
Xcel Energy-South.

West Region: Large Segment

SRP

741

Portland General Electric

703

APS

697

Rocky Mountain Power

682

Southern California Edison

679

West Region Large Segment Average

665

San Diego Gas & Electric

661

Puget Sound Energy

660

Pacific Power

654

Xcel Energy-West

651

NV Energy

649

Pacific Gas and Electric

648

L.A. Dept. of Water & Power

626

West Region: Midsize Segment

Idaho Power

707

SMUD

707

Snohomish County PUD

704

Seattle City Light

694

Tucson Electric Power

694

West Region Midsize Segment

677

Avista

665

NorthWestern Energy

649

PNM

639

El Paso Electric

635