Texas utility tops 2019 customer satisfaction study

Jordan Smith
By Jordan Smith

Entergy, a Texas utility, scored high on the customer satisfaction study.

Entergy Texas, a regulated utility that serves southeast Texas, emerged as the best-performing utility nationally in the 2019 edition of the Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study. The company, which serves around 454,000 business and residential customers in southeast Texas, scored 831 points out of a possible 1,000.

Entergy is a traditional utility, which generates and transmits electricity to customers in its service area. About 85 percent of Texas is deregulated, meaning customers choose their electricity provider. Power purchased from those providers is delivered to customers by Transmission and Distribution Service Providers, which include Oncor and CenterPoint. TDSPs do not generate electricity.

Customers report more satisfaction

Overall, the study, conducted by J.D. Power, found an improvement of business customer satisfaction across the board, with average customer satisfaction increasing by 18 points on the 1,000-point scale compared with 2018.

The authors attribute this development to the utilities’ efforts to improve communication with customers. “Electric utilities around the country have been ramping up their communications efforts, often addressing everything from mobile alerts about outages to updates on citizenship initiatives,” explains Adrian Chung, director of utilities intelligence at J.D. Power. “Many top-performing utilities are getting that formula right, by visibly maintaining their infrastructure and leveraging technology to ensure businesses receive timely information needed to deal with outages and support decision-making.”

J.D. Power has been conducting the study, which includes a separate survey for residential customers, for 21 years. The survey examines utility performance over six key areas: power quality and reliability, price, billing and payment, communications, corporate citizenship, and customer satisfaction. In the 2018 edition, Entergy Texas already made its mark, securing the highest business customer satisfaction rating for mid-sized utilities in the southern region.

Business customers appreciate more transparency

The study also provides some interesting data on the factors that improve customer satisfaction. Business customers have a better view of their utility if they are aware of its efforts to maintain and strengthen its infrastructure. J.D. Power found that a utility’s rating improves by 197 points on the 1,000-point scale if customers know about such initiatives.

Utilities across the country have made a growing number of investments to let their customers know about over recent years. In 2018, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (NEF) reported that overall utility investments increased to around 10 percent of total assets compared to just 6 percent a decade earlier. Total investments for the year 2016 were approximately double the amount invested in the early 2000s in real terms.

Customers also rate their utility higher if they know it is taking steps to protect the environment. However, less than half of all business customers know about environmental initiatives taken by utilities, suggesting that customer communication needs to be improved.

Almost three quarters of business customers (72 percent) take advantage of online accounts with their utility, according to the study. Research and reports have consistently pointed to the importance of digital communication for boosting the customer experience. In a 2017 CapGemini study, for example, 73 percent of respondents said they would be willing to pay for better customer service from their utility.

Residential customers focused on reliability and community involvement

For residential customers surveyed by J.D. Power, the issues of service reliability and the involvement of utilities in community projects are front and center.

Discussing the results of the residential customer study, John Hazen, senior director of J.D. Power’s energy practice, said, “Utility customers want their power to stay on and to see their utility involved in their local communities and the top performers do an excellent job of both. Many of the lower performing brands need to do a better job of communicating their community involvement efforts such as employee volunteering and local donations/sponsorships.”

Entergy service areas also include Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.

 

Jordan Smith is a freelance journalist and translator covering issues related to energy, the environment, and politics. His work has appeared on the independent news site Opposing Views, and at the Canadian Labour Institute.

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