Following a stormy second half of 2011, customer satisfaction with electric utility companies has declined for a second consecutive year, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study.

The study measures customer satisfaction with electric utility companies by examining six factors: power quality and reliability; price; billing and payment; corporate citizenship; communications; and customer service.

Residential customer satisfaction with electric utility companies averages 625 (on a 1,000-point scale), a slight decrease from 628 in 2011. Satisfaction with power quality and reliability, the most important factor in driving satisfaction, has declined by 13 points from 2011. Price satisfaction has increased by 10 points, due to slightly lower monthly bill amounts and fewer customers saying that their financial condition is worse than last year.

"Power quality and reliability is an area where electric utility companies do not always have control, as weather events and storms play a major factor in the quality and reliability of the services provided," said Chris Oberle, senior director of the energy and utility practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "Many large storms have impacted satisfaction across the United States, but Hurricane Irene in August and the Halloween Nor'easter in October significantly impacted satisfaction in the East region, which has declined by 20 points from 2011."

The study finds that 82 percent of customers prefer to be proactively contacted during outages with information and updates.

"The more information electric utilities proactively provide during an outage, the higher customer satisfaction will likely be," said Oberle. "Customers value being kept up to date and want to resume their lives as quickly as possible. Notifying them in a proactive manner ensures that they know the latest information and are kept apprised of their unique situation."

Electronic Communication Yields Higher Satisfaction
Electric utility customer satisfaction averages 714 when utilities communicate with customers via electronic methods, 89 points above industry average. Satisfaction is notably higher among customers who use electronic billing and payment; are provided outage information by email, text or mobile applications; visit their electric utility company's website; or recall a message sent to them via email, website or social media platform.

"Electronic communications offer many advantages to both energy utility companies and their customers," said Oberle. "Not only are they extremely quick and cost-efficient, but they also enable utilities to tailor messages to targeted customers and allow customers to review them at their leisure. It is a win-win situation for both."

Consumer Tips

  • Utility websites typically include plenty of outage information through outage maps and electronic alerts
  • Utility social media sites often list ways to lower energy consumption, thereby lowering your bill amounts
  • Utilities engage in many local events and may be great resources for discussions regarding ways to volunteer or otherwise help your community
  • Online bill payments and electronic bill formats may help the environment, as well as provide a more convenient way for you to make payments
The study ranks large and mid utility companies in four geographic regions: East, Midwest, South and West. Companies in the mid utility segment serve between 125,000 and 499,999 residential customers, while companies in the large utility segment serve 500,000 or more residential customers.

East Region

Among large utilities in the East region, PPL Electric Utilities ranks highest, followed by PECO, PSE&G and Central Maine Power, respectively.

In the East region mid utility segment, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative ranks highest for a fifth consecutive year, followed by Rochester Gas & Electric. Delmarva Power and Penn Power follow in a tie, respectively.

Midwest Region
MidAmerican Energy ranks highest among large utility companies in the Midwest region for a fifth consecutive year. Alliant Energy and We Energies rank second and third, respectively.

Omaha Public Power District ranks highest among mid utility companies in the Midwest region for a fifth consecutive year. Following Omaha Public Power District in the segment rankings are Kentucky Utilities and Wisconsin Public Service, respectively.

South Region
CPS Energy ranks highest among large utility companies in the South region. Following CPS Energy in the rankings are FPL and Alabama Power, OG&E and South Carolina Electric & Gas, respectively.

NOVEC ranks highest among mid utility companies in the South region, followed by Jackson EMC and Sawnee EMC, respectively.

West Region
Salt River Project (SRP) ranks highest among large utility companies in the West region for a fifth consecutive year and receives an award in the study for an 11th consecutive year. Following Salt River Project in the segment rankings are SMUD and Portland General Electric, respectively.

Clark Public Utilities ranks highest among mid utility companies in the West region for a fifth consecutive year, followed by Seattle City Light and Colorado Springs Utilities, respectively.

The 2012 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from more than 100,000 online interviews conducted from July 2011 through May 2012 among residential customers of the 126 largest electric utility brands across the United States, which collectively represent nearly 94 million households.