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Utilities and Their Customers: No Love Lost There

I’m pretty sure this bit of info won’t come as much of a surprise to you, my dear reader. It turns out, according to a recent national survey by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, that utilities are among the most “disliked” companies in America. Please, try to contain your shock. Not sure why they need to commission comprehensive studies about such things; all you need to do is ask a few people on the street and you’d likely get a similar response. Along with a few obscenity-filled rants to boot.

Aside from abundant complaints about the power outages from Hurricane Irene along the East Coast that lasted several weeks, the survey doesn’t specify exactly the issues people have with their utility companies. I suspect that most have to do either with outages in general, and billing or customer service (or lack thereof) issues.

Here in Illinois, a survey from JD Power recently indicated that ComEd had the “worst customer satisfaction” ranking among large electric utility companies.

So what gives? Can the two concepts — utilities and happy customers — simply not peaceably coexist? Based on these findings, it would appear not — at least not without some major changes. And attitude adjustments.

JD Power stated that, “utilities could help mitigate consumer unhappiness by setting up better communications systems during storms.”

Makes a heck of a lot of sense to me. And, I don’t think this is too complicated of a request. With the technological resources available in this day and age, is it too much to ask to keep people apprised of simple power outage information? In the absence of smart meters, electricity companies are entirely unaware of a power outage unless a customer notifies them directly. Pretty archaic system, if you ask me. Resolving these communication issues is dependent on smart grid technology, however, which is in the process of being implemented in many areas. Utilities must upgrade to provide better service, but consumers are resistant to those changes because of the inherent costs. Doesn’t seem like utilities can win either way. (At least not without taking a major hit on their profit margin, that is.)

What do you all think? Is customer service sorely lacking because consumers are a captive audience? I mean, unless you go off the grid or give up on electronics entirely, you don’t really have a choice in which company delivers your electricity. You’re pretty much stuck with them – and they know it. (Supply of your electricity is another story, however.) Given that, do you think the investment in the electrical infrastructure worth it to ensure better performance among utilities? Are you willing to make that financial sacrifice to prevent outages? Which is more important to you – saving money, or avoiding outages? What other steps can utilities take to improve your satisfaction?

Read more: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20120711/NEWS11/120719947/comed-gets-dim-customer-survey-review#ixzz20LKnr1aV




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