J.D Power Study: Customer Satisfaction with U.S. Natural Gas Utilities Reaches All-Time High

According to J.D. Power’s 2017 Gas Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study, natural gas utility business customer satisfaction scores have reached an all-time high. With an overall satisfaction score of 792 (on a 1,000-point scale), gas utility business customers are now the most satisfied among all utility customers surveyed by J.D. Power.

“Gas utilities have put huge efforts into customer safety preparedness during the past few years, and those efforts are starting to pay off in the form of record-high levels of satisfaction among business customers,” said Carl Lepper, Director, Utility Practice at J.D. Power. “Since our 2015 study, we’ve seen 19% growth in customers’ perceptions of gas utilities being very helpful with safety preparation, and that has been the biggest single contributor to the significant industry-wide improvement in customer satisfaction.”

Key findings

Safety preparation efforts significantly affect customer satisfaction: Overall, 36% of business customers say their gas utility is “very helpful” when it comes to preparation for safety issues, up from just 17% in 2015. Perceived helpfulness of the gas utility with safety preparation is the most-influencing element in overall satisfaction, associated with a 168-point gain in satisfaction.
Digital billing closes gap with paper statements: The gap between the number of gas utility business customers receiving their bills on paper and those receiving electronic statements has closed to just 6 percentage points, compared with 16 percentage points the previous year, with 53% of customers receiving digital bills and 59% receiving paper statements, remembering that some receive both.
Media perceptions matter: Positive media stories about a gas utility have a significant effect on customer satisfaction. Communications satisfaction among customers who recall a positive media story about their utility is 872 vs. 653 among those who recall a negative story.
Larger companies have higher levels of satisfaction: Business customer satisfaction scores increase along with the size of the company. For example, companies with 1,000+ employees have an average overall satisfaction score of 817, while those with four or fewer employees have a score of 742. This is likely in response to larger companies receiving dedicated account support and more proactive contacts from their gas utility.

Study Rankings

The industry results for the 2017 study are reported across four U.S. geographic regions: East, Midwest, South and West. The following utilities rank highest in customer satisfaction in their respective region:

  • East: New Jersey Natural Gas
    Midwest: DTE Energy
    South: Alagasco
    West: NW Natural (for the second consecutive year)

Now in its 13th year, the Gas Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study measures business customer satisfaction with gas utility companies in four regions: East, Midwest, South and West. Each of the 61 brands included in the study serve more than 25,000 business customers, representing more than 4 million business customers in total. Overall satisfaction is measured by examining six factors (listed in order of importance): safety and reliability (25%); billing and payment (17%); corporate citizenship (15%); customer service (15%); price (15%); and communications (13%).

The study is based on responses from more than 10,000 online interviews with business customers who spend at least $150 monthly on gas. It was conducted in two phases: February-June 2017 and July-November 2017.

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