Continuing a steady upward trend since 2004, business customer satisfaction with electric utility providers has reached record high levels, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study released today. The study's nationwide customer satisfaction index has increased from 690 points on a 1,000-point scale in 2007 to 697 in 2008.

The study is based on interviews with representatives of more than 13,500 U.S. businesses that spend between $500 and $50,000 monthly on electricity. Overall customer satisfaction is measured through six factors: power quality and reliability; customer service; company image; billing and payment; price; and communications. Businesses served by the 58 largest electric utilities in the United States report improvements in four of the six factors in 2008, with customer service and billing and payment factors registering the largest increases. Ratings for power quality and reliability and communications factors have also increased, while company image and price ratings have remained flat.

"Across the industry, utilities have made substantial gains in customer service and billing," said Alan Destribats, vice president of the energy utility practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "For example, providing a wide variety of payment options, giving customers electronic copies of billing statements and making customer service available 24 hours a day through utility Web sites are all particularly satisfying to business customers."

East Region

PPL Electric Utilities is the highest-ranking electric utility in the East Region with an overall customer satisfaction index score of 710. PPL has ranked highest in the region for seven of the past nine years. Other strong performers are Public Service Electric and Gas, FirstEnergy-East, Allegheny Power and Con Edison.

Midwest Region

For a second consecutive year, E.ON U.S. and MidAmerican Energy rank highest in a tie in the Midwest Region, each with an overall score of 728. Other utilities in the region with strong performances include Aquila, Consumers Energy and Xcel Energy-Midwest.

South Region

CPS Energy improves by 40 points and ranks highest with a score of 748. 2008 marks the first time that CPS Energy has ranked highest in the region. Other utilities with strong performances in the South Region include South Carolina Electric & Gas, Southern Company, Progress Energy and Tampa Electric.

West Region

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) ranks highest in the West Region for a second consecutive year, achieving a score of 777. Other utilities performing particularly well in the region include L.A. Department of Water and Power, Salt River Project, Pacific Gas and Electric and Portland General Electric.

"Sacramento Municipal Utility District not only ranks highest in the West Region, but also earns the highest score of all the utility companies in the 2008 study, improving by 15 points since 2007," said Destribats. "In addition, SMUD leads the study in several key performance areas, with business customers reporting particularly high rates of outage call-backs, receipt of electronic billing statements, contact with members of the utility's senior management and awareness of SMUD's energy conservation and efficiency programs."