Atlantic City Electric ranked fifth out of 15 midsized utilities in the Northeast in a residential customer-satisfaction survey released this week by J.D. Power and Associates.
The Mays Landing-based utility, a subsidiary of Pepco Holdings Inc., scored 615 in the survey conducted between July 2011 and May, a nearly 4 percent improvement from the time period before, said John Hazen, senior director with J.D. Power, a Westlake Village, Calif.-headquartered research firm.
The survey included about 600 respondents locally and ranked power quality and reliability, price, billing and payment, corporate citizenship, customer service and communications, he said. Atlantic City Electric was included in medium-sized electricity markets stretching from Maine to Maryland.
Hazen said the annual survey allows utilities to see how they rank against their peers. It also gives them an idea what their customers expect from utilities.
“If there is an outage, they want to know when it will come back on, they want up-to-date information, and what’s critical is when you tell a customer when power will be restored, you need to meet that,” Hazen said. “Obviously if you don’t hit the time you told a customer, the satisfaction declines especially.”
Bill Yingling, a spokesman for Atlantic City Electric, said the utility’s rating reflects employees’ commitments to customer service.
Nationally, the study indicated that 82 percent of customers want to be notified quickly of outage information and provided with updates, particularly via text message, emails, utility websites and social media platforms.
The Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study was conducted prior to the June 30 storms, which knocked out power and led to extended electrical outages to thousands in the region and many more along the East Coast.
Chris Oberle, senior director of energy and utility practice at J.D. Power, said Hurricane Irene in August 2011 and a Halloween northeastern storm affected customer-satisfaction rates in the East, in general driving satisfaction rates down.
While utilities may not have much control over some aspects of power quality and reliability, how they respond to such events affects customers’ views of the company, he said.
“The more information electric utilities proactively provide during an outage, the higher customer service will likely be,” Oberle said in a statement. “Customers value being kept up to date and want to resume their lives as quickly as possible. Notifying them in a proactive manner ensures that they know the latest information and are kept apprised of their unique situation.”
Electronic communications are more cost efficient for utilities and are easier to tailor to specific customers, he said.
Among midsized utilities in the East Region, Atlantic City Electric ranked behind Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, Rochester Gas & Electric, Delmarva Power and Penn Power. The top-five-ranking large utilities in the East were PPL Electric Utilities, PECO, PSE&G, Central Maine Power and West Penn Power, according to the survey.
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