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Businesses give utilities higher grade

Business customers of electric utility providers are considerably more satisfied in 2010, compared with 2009, due to marked improvements in corporate citizenship and power quality and reliability, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study.

The study is based on interviews with representatives of more than 16,000 U.S. businesses that spend between $500 and $50,000 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 averages 646 on a 1,000-point scale in 2010—an increase of 29 points from 2009. Each of the factors included in the study has increased from 2009, with the largest gains occurring in the corporate citizenship factor (which increases by 31 points) and the power quality and reliability factor (which improves by 29 points).

“Electric utilities are doing a particularly good job of raising awareness of their new conservation and efficiency programs, which resonates with cost-conscious business customers,” said Alan Destribats, vice president of the energy utility practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

The study finds that business customers increasingly rely on their utility Web sites for information, with 46 percent of customers who say they use their utility Web site in 2010, compared with 38 percent in 2009. In addition, those business customers who visited the utility’s Web site one or more times are considerably more satisfied overall (673, on average) than customers who never visited the utility’s Web site (625, on average).

The study also finds that utilities may be able to mitigate low satisfaction levels due to outages by providing comprehensive outage information. Among business customers who called their utility to report an outage, those who received four or more pieces of outage information are nearly as satisfied overall as those who never experienced an outage.

“By proactively communicating about corporate citizenship initiatives and power outage information, electric utilities are providing additional value to their business customers, to which those customers are responding positively,” said Destribats. “As utility web site usage continues to grow among business customers, Web sites will become an increasingly important tool in these communication efforts.”

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