As I wrote about yesterday, JD Power & Associates released their 2012 survey of Customer Satisfaction for the Texas electricity market. I’ve already written about the specific results and the electricity providers that excelled in the survey. Today I want to take a look at another segment of information that was released in the survey:
Customers in Texas who are able to choose their electric provider are increasingly more satisfied with their provider than are those who do not have a choice, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Texas Residential Retail Electric Provider Customer Satisfaction StudySM
Since Texas deregulated in 2002, the market has had it’s ups and downs. It took a couple years for the pricing to get in stride, and it also took a few years for most people to come to understand the process of shopping for and selecting new electricity providers, as well as the difference in responsibilities between companies like Reliant and Centerpoint, or TXU and Oncor. Lots of people got frustrated, and lots of people in places like Austin and San Antonio pointed fingers and said deregulated electricity was a failure.
However, in the past 5-6 years, the market has settled down. Prices hit all-time lows with the cost of natural gas, and right now they are actually some of the lowest prices in the country while Austin is on it’s way to having one of the highest electricity rates in the state of Texas. Additionally, some reports from biased groups like Recharge Texas have interpreted that rising customer complaints after deregulation are a sign of overall customer dissatisfaction, as opposed to customers simply participating in the marketplace. Well, this recent JD Power Survey seems to put that to rest once and for all:
Overall satisfaction among residential customers of electric retailers in Texas is 678 (on a 1,000-point scale), an increase of 44 points from 2010. This is the highest level since the study was first published in 2008. Moreover, this is the first time satisfaction among customers with a retail choice of electric providers exceeds both the Texas and U.S. national averages for all factors measured in the study. Among Texas customers with regulated residential electric service, satisfaction is 646. Regionally, satisfaction among customers in the Metropolitan Dallas/Fort Worth area is 677, compared with 681 among those in the Houston area, three points higher than the statewide average.
So Texas has the highest customer satisfaction when compared to any other state in the country, particularly and including regulated states. Additionally, when comparing the customer satisfaction between the regulated and deregulated areas of Texas, the average customer satisfaction is overwhelmingly better in the deregulated areas. Despite a bunch of naysayers about deregulated electricity, and customers paying higher prices, and being dissatisfied with a confusing process, it looks like the market actually is working and customers are happier.
Here’s some other interesting facts and snippets from the JD Power Survey:
“Many electric retailers in Texas are considering how to better serve their customers when they are contacted,” said Andrew Heath, senior director of the energy and utility practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “The large improvements show that electric retailers are putting practices in place that improve satisfaction, which helps retain customers.”
Satisfaction is 218 points higher when customers’ questions or problems are resolved on the first call, compared with when their questions or problems require two or more calls for resolution (799 vs. 581, respectively). Similarly, online customer service interactions echo the need for quick resolution, as satisfaction with customer service is 800 among customers whose questions or problems are resolved on their first visit to the website, compared with 644 when problem resolution requires two or more visits.
“Customers do not want to spend much time getting an answer or fixing a problem with their bill or service,” said Heath. “The dramatic increase in satisfaction for first-contact resolution is a clear indicator that Texas electric companies should strive to quickly resolve issues or questions.”
Among customers who are aware of their retailer electric provider’s corporate citizenship efforts–such as supporting local organizations or volunteering in the community–satisfaction averages more than 60 points higher than among those who are not aware of such efforts.
So it looks like the innovation and focus on customer service that was expected to result from a deregulated market have taken place. Companies are focusing on customers, as well as innovating in the online space. Some companies are even making a larger push at civic involvement and their customers are aware and pleased at this fact. The rates in the deregulated areas of Texas are among the cheapest in the entire nation. It looks like the deregulated electricity in Texas is a success. Or at the very least, the customers buying electricity certainly seem to believe it’s a success.