Customer satisfaction with utilities down for second consecutive year

Customer satisfaction with utilities has declined for the second year in a row, following another harsh winter, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). In fact, customer satisfaction with gas and electric service providers is down 2.7 percent, to an ACSI score of 74.3 on a scale of 100, according to the index.

Credit: Gajus

This year, household satisfaction with investor-owned utilities fell 1.3 percent to an ACSI score of 74.

DTE Energy and Exelon scores deteriorated the most, with both being down 8 percent. Duke Energy declined 6 percent, while Eversource Energy (formerly Northeast Utilities), hurt particularly hard by winter storms, fell 7 percent and claimed the industry low of 66.

“Higher cost tends to weaken customer satisfaction, particularly when spending is not discretionary, as is the case with commodities such as energy,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI chairman and founder. “It is not as much the cost of energy per se, but that usage was high and took a bigger bite out of household income.”

Among the largest investor-owned utilities, the highest-scoring companies are both natural gas suppliers — Atmos Energy (82) and CenterPoint Energy (81). FirstEnergy is next at 79, posting the largest gain (8 percent), tying with Sempra Energy. Dominion Resources, PPL, and NiSource all come in at 78, followed by Southern Company, Entergy (up 1 percent) and NextEra Energy (also up 1 percent) at 77. The only other providers to improve are Xcel Energy (up 1 percent to 76), Public Service Enterprise Group (up 3 percent to 72), and Pacific Gas and Electric (up 1 percent to 71).

Among municipal utilities, the smallest, which make up a majority of the market, received the lowest scores — dropping to a combined ACSI score of 73.

Most large municipal utilities improved from last year. For example, Salt River Project (SRP) is up 1 percent, to 80, and leads in customer satisfaction for a fifth straight year. CPS Energy is up 3 percent to 77.

On the downside, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) fell 1 percent and scores low for customer satisfaction at 68.

Smaller rural cooperative utilities hold a strong lead over the other utility categories, but slip 1.2 percent to an ACSI score of 80. Despite a 1 percent downturn, Touchstone Energy Cooperatives remains one of the index’s top-scoring energy utilities at 80, followed by the aggregate of smaller co-ops (down 3 percent to 78).

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