Déjà Vu as Co-ops Lead in Satisfaction

A NOVEC lineman repairs damage from an ice storm. (Photo By: NOVEC)

Strong showings from electric cooperatives, as well as greater satisfaction among all electric consumers, are among the highlights of a new J.D. Power report.

The firm’s 2017 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study shows several co-ops with top-of-the-chart scores besting many investor-owned and municipal utilities.

On the co-op segment of the study, SECO Energy is the leader for the second consecutive year, notching a 789 on a 1,000-point scale. That’s up 20 points from last year, and 40 points from 2015.

“I am grateful and humbled by the praise and goodwill from our members,” said Jim Duncan, CEO of SECO, who also praised the co-op staff.

“Our people are the heart of SECO, and they make a difference for our members,” said Duncan.

In 2015 SECO captured the ranking of highest in satisfaction among midsized utilities in the South, before J.D. Power put co-ops in their own category.

One point behind SECO on this year’s co-op list is Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative. The Manassas-based co-op recorded a score of 788, up 40 points in a year.

“We’re pleased that NOVEC has scored at or near the top among the nation’s electric cooperatives and utilities in the J.D. Power study for the last six years,” said Mike Curtis, NOVEC vice president of public relations.

“Our employees take every business transaction seriously, viewing each one as an opportunity to excel.”

In the No. 3 spot is Sawnee EMC, which scored 786. Michael A. Goodroe, president and CEO of the Cumming, Georgia-based co-op credited “the efforts of our dedicated staff, who strive each day to make our cooperative one of the very best in the nation.”

Blake House, Sawnee EMC vice president of member services, called the survey results “very humbling,” noting “it means our members appreciate what we do.”

The highest-ranked non-co-op on the list was Clark Public Utilities in Washington state, scoring 776. Besides SECO, NOVEC and Sawnee, two other co-ops beat that score: Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative and Georgia’s Walton EMC each scored 783.

Seventeen co-ops notched scores above the overall average of 719. John Hazen, senior director of the energy practice at J.D. Power, noted that the 719 figure is up 39 points from 2016, and said there’s a good reason for that.

“The utility industry has begun to fully understand the importance of customer satisfaction over the past several years, and now many have dedicated leaders and teams focused on improving the customer experience,” said Hazen.

“A challenge we continue to see, however, is that the pace of implementing satisfaction improvements at utilities can be slower than in other industries.”

Among the other findings of its survey, J.D. Power reported that 35 percent of consumers now access their utility’s website mobile phone or tablet. That’s up 15 percent in a year. And two-thirds of consumers now say they receive critical information during a power outage—such as the cause of the outage and restoration estimates—up 7 percent.