Dennis Smith Joins J.D. Power Energy Team

J.D. Power and Associates is pleased to announce that Dennis Smith, formerly of Chartwell Inc., has joined our energy practice. His responsibilities include thought leadership, identifying and understanding best practices, mapping current and emerging trends, and developing insights using our syndicated customer satisfaction data, enabling clients to deploy best practice methods in support of their customer satisfaction and smart energy initiatives.

Mr. Smith has more than 15 years experience in the utility space and is a noted subject matter expert on utility customer care and communications.  He is a frequent presenter at utility customer service and marketing conferences.  Most recently he served as vice president at Chartwell Inc.  During his lengthy tenure, he led the research and editorial department for 12 years, and held responsibilities for sales, marketing and member services.  Dennis also served as Chair of EMACS – The Customer Experience Conference from 2006-2011.

Dennis has authored dozens of research reports and hundreds of articles in such industry trade journals as EL&P, T&D World, and Public Utilities Fortnightly.  He has also been the principle consultant of more two dozen comprehensive studies on utility customer-facing issues including smart grid and advanced metering, call center management and technologies, bill presentment, payment and collections, new and emerging technologies, marketing and social media.

Dennis began his career in the newspaper industry, where he won a number of Associated Press awards for reporting, including First Place awards for Freedom of Information and Deadline Reporting.   He is a graduate of Georgia Southern University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communications/journalism.

Dennis will work out of his office in Atlanta.  He can be reached directly at 404-655-3727 (cell) or email

2012 Utility Website Evaluation Study (UWES)

Customers Express Frustration with Finding Energy-Saving Tips, Current Electricity Usage Information Online

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: 12 April 2012
— Utility websites do particularly well in providing their customers with a satisfying online experience for reviewing account information online and scheduling payments, but new or more complex functions, such as setting up an account or finding information on how to save energy, are among the most difficult for customers to understand, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Utility Website Evaluation StudySM (UWES) released today.

The inaugural study examines the usefulness of utility websites by examining five key factors: appearance; clarity of information; navigation; range of services; and speed.  The study is designed to provide utility companies with an objective assessment of customers’ satisfaction with their website; establish performance benchmarks; provide improvement recommendations; and identify best practices across the industry.

Among the 48 utility companies included in the study, AEP, Alabama Power and PPL Electric Utilities perform particularly well in overall customer satisfaction with electric utility websites, providing customers with sufficient information to easily self-service their accounts.

Read more here.



How Many Customers have Created an Online Account at their Utility Website?

We had a fantastic turnout for today’s web conference announcing the new J. D. Power and Associates Utility Website Evaluation Study.  The level of interest is a testament to the importance utilities now place on their website.  And for good reason…

… one of the slides I showed during the web conference showed how many utility customers have created an online account at their utility website.  In the last three years this number has increased from just over one in three to almost half.

I can’t wait to learn what these customers now tell us about their experience at their utility website.  The only problem is that, like everyone else, I’m going to have to wait until April 2012 before I know the answer.

If you are interested in learning more about the study please contact me.

Andrew Heath

2012 Utility Website Evaluation Study

On Tuesday December 6th I am hosting a web conference to launch our new Utility Website Evaluation Study.  This complimentary webcast provides:

  • An overview of the study and research methodology
  • What electric utilities need to know about their customer’s online experience
  • How an electric utility company website can improve online customer satisfaction and increase online self-service adoption rates
  • A cross-industry example of how an auto manufacturer improved their online customer experience by revamping their website

There will also be an opportunity to find out more during the question and answer section of the web conference.

Register for the web conference

Or contact me if you would like further information about the study or the webcast.

Andrew Heath

Highlights of the Smart EV Executive Leadership Forum

Earlier this week J.D. Power and Associates co-presented the Smart EV Executive Leadership Forum at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The goal of the forum was to bring together stakeholders in the U.S. electric vehicle (EV) market as well as representatives from the automotive, energy, and utilities industries to talk about what utilities and policy makers need to know to plan for the wider adoption of EVs.

The event discussed the needs of consumers, particularly EV owners, and specifically what they can expect in terms of new applications and rate structuring that will help them adjust to an EV lifestyle.

The keynote speaker for the event was Brendan S. Jones, Director, Nissan Leaf Marketing & Sales Strategy, Nissan North America. He detailed the highlights of the Nissan Leaf, provided an analysis of EV infrastructure projects, and shared the industry partnerships that the firm is pursuing. Additional presenters included executives from AAA, Baltimore Gas & Electric, IBM, Dominion Energy, NRG Energy, General Motors, Electric Drive Transportation Association, District of Columbia Public Service Commission, Magna E-Car Systems, SAE International, Airbiquity, and J.D. Power and Associates.

The transition to EVs has the potential to provide significant benefits to consumers in fuel and service cost savings, increased convenience of fueling, and in reducing the tailpipe emissions. And electric utilities have a significant opportunity to build new relationships with their customers and to be a resource as their customers consider if an EV is right for them and to support the customers in getting the most from their plug-in vehicles.

With Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards expected to grow at an annual rate of nearly 4.9% over the next 15 years (with 54.5 miles per gallon to be the standard by 2015) and the price of gasoline expected to rise, most speakers felt that there must be some level of electrification to all vehicles over the long-term. Even so, most speakers agreed that President Obama’s goal of putting one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

In the shorter-term the general theme was that overcapacity will be an issue for the automobile manufacturers. This is due to high vehicle purchase prices, the consumer’s concerns with regards to the lack of infrastructure, uncertainty pertaining to maintenance costs, and consumer anxiety regarding the driving range of the vehicles.

The speakers from the event have graciously shared their presentations from the Forum, and you are invited to view them here.

Tell Customers about Scheduled Maintenance Work – they like to know

I got an automated phone call this week from my utility.  It was a bit like one of those jokes when people ask “What do you want to hear first – the good news or the bad news?”  The good news was that my local electric utility was maintaining the substation supplying my house, the bad news was that I was going to experience two power outages both lasting about an hour.

This then got me thinking about how this phone call impacts other customers in our electric survey.  We ask people who experience an outage what the cause was and who made contact.  For customers that told us the cause was scheduled utility work most had no communications; of the rest, most called their utility to find out more information, and then there are the lucky people like me where the utility made the first contact.  So does the phone call before the outage make a diffference?  You bet – here’s the relevant national data from our 2011 residential electric study:

Impact of Proactive Communications when Scheduling a Planned Maintenance Outage

So far I’ve only experienced the first outage at the scheduled time – the second is tomorrow so I hope that I continue to feel as satisified as all the other people in our 2011 survey once everything is over.

[Source: 2011 J. D. Power and Associates Electric Residential Customer Satisfaction Study]

Energy Efficiency Programs Help Mitigate Rate Increases

It comes as no surprise that customers who hear about a rate increase from their utility are bound to be less satisfied.  In our 2011 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study we see a 56 point decline in the Price Index ratings when customers heard about a rate increase (from 549 down to 493) – and 36% of customers said they recently heard or read about potential rate increases by their utility.

One way to mitigate the pain of higher rates is to offer ways for customers to use less electricity.  Customers who are aware of a potential rate increase, but also are familiar with the energy efficiency programs from their utility score 120 index points higher on Price (from 417 to 537).

Outage Information During Extended Interruptions

As utilities along the eastern seaboard continue to restore electric service to millions of customers impacted by Irene, it is important that electricity providers understand the power of providing information to customers.

Customers who were provided an estimated time of restoration, and had their power back on before or at the promised time are much more satisfied … no matter how long the outage.  But when outages last longer than one day, it becomes even more critical to provide accurate information about restoration times.


Bill payment assistance pays off in satisfaction

OG&E announced yesterday that they have suspended disconnects during August for residential customers who don’t pay their electric bills.  When it’s continually over 100 degrees … this seems like a really good move.

Results from our 2011 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study show that customers who receive assistance from their utility in making arrangements to pay overdue bills are much more satisfied that customers who do not seek or receive help from their utility.

Even more critically, when no arrangements for payment are offered by the utility, satisfaction plummets.



Heat wave without blackouts … well done

Electric utility systems survived the massive heat wave that swept across the midwestern, southern, and eastern regions last week without major problems.

Record loads were recorded in many markets, and load cycling and demand response programs played a part in keeping the system intact:

 Xcel sets new power demand record

 Ameren, ComEd report record power demand

 PJM hits peak record

 NYC used a trillion watts; Con Edison sheds 500MW

 BGE shut off customer air conditioners to shave 600 MW

 Duke Energy and Progress Energy cycled air conditioners

 Was the grid smart?