Electric Co-ops Earn Seven of the Top 10 Scores in J.D. Power Rankings

Electric cooperatives had another strong showing in the annual J.D. Power rankings for residential customer satisfaction, with seven co-ops among the 10 highest-scoring utilities in the study.

Collectively, co-ops averaged a score of 753 on a 1,000-point scale, the highest among all utility segments in the study.

With 794 points, Jackson EMC, based in Jefferson, Georgia, was the highest-ranking co-op, finishing two points behind top scorer SRP in Arizona. Also in the top five were Moncks Corner, South Carolina-based Berkeley Electric Cooperative (791 points) and Cumming, Georgia-based Sawnee Electric Cooperative (785 points).

Jackson EMC also nabbed the highest score in the category for corporate citizenship (757), a confirmation that its 260,000 members “enjoy and value the work we do,” said Chip Jakins, Jackson EMC president and CEO.

“Our mission is to exceed our members’ expectations with reliable, courteous, and personalized service. This is how our employees work every day,” Jakins said.

Co-ops cracking the top 20 scores for the first time were Snapping Shoals EMC, based in Covington, Georgia (763), Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative in Dade City, Florida (tied at 762 with another Florida co-op, SECO Energy in Sumterville), and Coserv Electric in Corinth, Texas (758).

WREC saw new highs for customer satisfaction scores in both the J.D. Power rankings and the American Customer Satisfaction Index last year. Now serving some 260,000 members and adding about 1,000 monthly, the co-op is analyzing data, deploying drones and hiring more inspection crews to improve reliability, said David Lambert, executive vice president and general manager.

“We’re also taking communications to the next level,” he said. “We’ve added two new positions to our communications department who focus heavily on digital and social media. Communications is key.”

The 2023 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 104,801 online interviews conducted from January through November 2023 of customers of the nation’s 149 largest electric utilities, representing more than 105 million households. Utility performance was measured in six areas: power quality and reliability; price; billing and payment; communications; corporate citizenship; and customer care.

Across all utility categories, residential customers’ overall satisfaction score declined to 713 on a 1,000-point scale, 18 points lower than last year. Amid frustration with higher monthly electric bills, satisfaction with price fell 33 points compared to last year.

Forty percent of household respondents said they were worse off financially this year, a figure that’s been inching upward since 2020, when utilities recorded their highest satisfaction scores.

“The challenge is that you’ve got higher rates, you’ve got utilities asking for rate increases and people struggling to pay their bills,” said John Hazen, managing director of utility intelligence at J.D. Power.

Utilities can boost their scores by communicating “why a rate increase is necessary and what the benefit is to customers,” Hazen said. “Energy efficiency awareness, reliability improvements, community outreach and participation in local events are the feel-good stories utility providers should lead to help increase overall satisfaction.”

Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer for NRECA.