April 2018, Vol.245, No.4


Gas Utility Customers Show Greater Satisfaction Levels

Pipeline & Gas Journal staff report

In a year that saw growing efforts to improve safety through direct customer outreach and residential safety inspections, the latest J.D. Power Gas Utility Business Customers Study found gas utility customers increasingly satisfied.

This represents the sixth year in a row approval ratings among residential users have gone up, nationally.

"The residential gas utility industry has committed significant resources to customer engagement, dramatically increasing the number of communication channels they use and consistently positioning themselves as advocates of safety who are here to help customers," said Carl Lepper, utility industry analyst at J.D. Power. "That work is paying off in the form of consistently improving customer satisfaction scores that are being driven by perceptions of increased safety and reliability."

Among the key finds from the study:

  • Overall satisfaction for 2017 is 29 index points higher (on a 1,000-point scale) than it was the previous study.
  • Gas utility efforts to emphasize safety have had a positive effect – satisfaction is 88 index points higher among customers who had a safety inspection conducted by their utility than among those who did not. Additionally, customers who said their gas utility was "very helpful" or "somewhat helpful" in preparing for a safety issue, rate satisfaction 150 points higher than those who found utilities less helpful.
  • Digital alerts from the utility such as a natural gas leak, are being adopted widely by utility customers. Communication satisfaction among customers who have received alerts addressing everything from usage to severe weather and emergencies, is 104 index points higher than among other customers.
  • Proactive communications regarding service interruptions improve customer satisfaction. Overall customer satisfaction scores are higher when residential customers experience an interruption but are alerted to it in advance than when they do not experience any service interruptions at all.

Study Rankings

Additionally, the study, now in its 16th year, ranks large (400,000 or more customers) and midsize (125,000-399,000 customers) utility companies for overall customer satisfaction by four geographic regions: East, Midwest, South and West.

The following utilities rank highest in customer satisfaction in their respective regions, respectively:

East Large: New Jersey Natural Gas (also top-rated the previous year), UGA, PSE&G, BGE and Washington Gas

East Midsize: Elizabethtown Gas (also top-rated the previous year), Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, South Jersey Gas, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, Southern Connecticut Gas, Connecticut Natural Gas

Midwest Large: MidAmerican Energy (also top-rated the previous year), DTE Energy, Consumers Energy, Columbia Gas of Ohio, Missouri Gas Energy, Vectren

Midwest Midsize: Alliant Energy, Madison Gas & Electric, Citizens Energy Group, Minnesota Energy Resources, Atmos Energy

South Large: Atmos Energy/CenterPoint Energy (tie), PSNC Energy, Oklahoma Natural Gas, Piedmont Natural Gas

South Midsize: TECO Peoples Gas, Columbia Gas of Virginia, Alagasco, South Carolina Electric & Gas, Virginia Natural Gas

West Large: NW Natural (also top-rated the previous year), Southwest Gas, Southern California Gas Company, Questar Gas, Puget Sound Energy

West Midsize: Intermountain Gas Company, Cascade Natural Gas, UniSource Energy Services, Colorado Springs Utilities, Avista

The study was based on responses from more than 61,000 online interviews conducted between September 2016 and July 2017 among residential customers of 85 large and midsize gas utility brands across the continental United States. P&GJ


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