American consumer intelligence company J.D Power has released its 2020 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study, which explores the performance of US utilities in regards to improving customer satisfaction and experience.
The study has found an increase in overall business customer satisfaction with electric utilities, aided by record high reliability scores.
Overall business customer satisfaction with electric utilities is 793, up 14 points from 2019, driven largely by improvements in customer contact and power quality and reliability.
Nearly one-third (31%) of business customers say they received perfect power throughout 2020, up from 29% in 2019. Among those businesses that did experience an outage, 61% say they received some form of proactive communication from their utility.
However, there are serious gaps in satisfaction between small and large businesses.
Customer satisfaction among large businesses has increased eight points (on a 1,000-point scale) during the pandemic but has declined 11 points among small businesses during the same period.
Small businesses in the study also cite increased financial stress during the pandemic, with 27% saying they are financially worse off now than before the pandemic.
Overall customer satisfaction is significantly higher (73 points) among the 64% of businesses that are aware of COVID-19-related relief efforts, such as late payment forgiveness, waived charges and fees and community support initiatives. However, 36% of business customers say they are unaware of these efforts.
The study has also found that digital channels are highly effective and most often used for connecting with utilities.
Overall satisfaction among business customers that interact digitally with their electric utility via a website and mobile app is 26 points higher than among those that communicate primarily by phone. Most digital customers also say their utility is easy to do business with and is a valued business partner.
Adrian Chung, director of utilities intelligence at J.D. Power, said: “While overall customer satisfaction remains high this year, it should be cause for concern that smaller businesses that have been more significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are, in many cases, less aware of relief efforts and not receiving the same level of outreach as bigger businesses.
“Peel back the layers of the data and it’s clear that utilities need to fully leverage digital channels in an effective manner to engage with the broad population of small business customers.”
The study is based on responses from 18,457 online interviews of business customers in decision-making roles related to their utility company. The study was fielded from February through October 2020.
To learn more about which utilities performed well, visit Power 2020 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study.