J.D. Power: Business satisfaction with utilities falls as rates rise

TROY–More than half (52%) of United States businesses say they are aware of electric utility rate increases this year, spurring a significant decline in overall customer satisfaction. According to the J.D. Power 2022 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study, a combination of rising rates, inadequate communication, and lack of visibility on corporate citizenship initiatives have caused overall satisfaction scores to decline 12 points (on a 1,000-point scale) year over year.

“Businesses are facing a tough economic environment right now as they confront the effects of inflation, talent scarcity and continued supply chain challenges,” said Adrian Chung, director of utilities intelligence at J.D. Power. “Blanket increases in their electric utility bills—without clear corresponding communications and adequate support from their utility on how to manage these costs—are simply adding to an already difficult situation for many businesses. But rising rates do not necessarily have to result in lower customer satisfaction. In fact, the handful of electric utilities that are getting the business customer engagement formula right are able to maintain or even drive higher levels of satisfaction and affordability perceptions.”

Following are some key findings of the 2022 study:

* Business customer satisfaction short circuits: Overall business customer satisfaction with electric utilities this year is 774, down 12 points from a year ago. Lower satisfaction is primarily driven by 20-point declines in price and in awareness of utility corporate citizenship efforts, and a 19-point decline in satisfaction with utility communications.
* A majority of customers see rate increases: More than half (52%) of business customers say they are aware of a rate increase from their electric utility this year, up 15 percentage points from a year ago. Nationally, rate increase awareness has risen but it is most prevalent in the East and West regions.
* Account representatives to the rescue: Overall satisfaction scores are 79 points higher and price satisfaction is 113 points higher when business customers indicate they have an assigned account representative. Likewise, business customer perceptions of power quality and reliability, corporate citizenship and communications all increase significantly when a dedicated rep is assigned. Currently, just 34% of business customers say they have an assigned account representative.
* Customer engagement crucial: Additional proactive customer relationship management strategies that help offset the negative effects of a price increase include participation in special product and service offerings; awareness of energy efficiency and conservation programs; and frequent communication on energy conservation tips and special offers. There is a 74-point increase in satisfaction with price when business customers participate in three or more product and service offerings with their electric utility.

Within each of the four U.S. geographic regions included in the study, utility providers are classified into one of two segments: large (serving 90,000 or more business customers) and midsize (serving 50,000-89,999 business customers).

The following utilities rank highest in business customer satisfaction in their respective region:

East Large: BGE
East Midsize: Atlantic City Electric
Midwest Large: Ameren Missouri
Midwest Midsize: Kentucky Utilities (for a fourth consecutive year)
South Large: Georgia Power
South Midsize: Entergy Texas
West Large: SRP (for a second consecutive year)
West Midsize: Seattle City Light

See the rank charts for each region at http://www.jdpower.com/pr-id/2022172.

The 2022 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study, now in its 24th year, measures satisfaction among business customers of 87 targeted U.S. electric utilities, each of which serves more than 50,000 business customers. In aggregate, these utilities provide electricity to more than 12 million customers.

Overall satisfaction is examined across six factors (listed in order of importance): power quality and reliability; price; billing and payment; corporate citizenship; customer contact; and communications.

The study is based on responses from 18,694 online interviews of business customers in decision-making roles related to their utility company. The study was fielded from February through October 2022.

For more information about the J.D. Power Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study, visit https://www.jdpower.com/business/utilities/electric-utility-business-customer-satisfaction-study.

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