Chesterton Tribune

NIPSCO ranks lowest in survey of nation's electric utilities

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By KEVIN NEVERS

The Northern Indiana Public Service Company ranks lowest in a customer-satisfaction survey conducted this spring by J.D. Power and Associates of medium-sized utilities.

That survey was based on nearly 25,000 telephone interviews collected in April and May with residential customers of the nation’s 77 largest electric utilities.

The result: NIPSCO scored 82 while the average score of medium-sized utilities was 101 and the best score, achieved by the Omaha Public Power District, was 116. The next lowest score, achieved by Snohomish County Public Utility District, was 91.

J.D. Power, a global marketing information services firm headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., measured overall satisfaction based on performance in five areas as reported by customers: power quality and reliability, the most important of the five; then company image; price and value; billing and payment; and customer service.

“The overall satisfaction index score nationwide has increased 4 index points since the inaugural study conducted in 1999,” J.D. Power said in a statement released July 30. “The increase in 2003 is led by improvements in company image; customer service; power quality and reliability; and billing and payment. Satisfaction with price and value remains unchanged from 2002 results, despite customer perceptions of electric bills being 4 percent higher than in 2002. Customer-reported spending on electricity is up 20 percent since 1999.”

NIPSCO spokesman Larry Graham told the Chesterton Tribune today that J.D. Power has not yet broken down the company’s score by area but that NIPSCO plans in the near future to “sit down with J.D. Power and go over the survey data in detail. Hopefully it will help us focus on where we need to improve customer service.”

Graham added that the J.D. Power survey will be used in conjunction with the company’s own in-house survey of customers who have recently requested service, and noted that the J.D. Power survey may be a more accurate measure of customers’ perceptions than of actual service quality. “A lot of things can drive perceptions,” he said. “Gas prices, what people are seeing in the media.”

Graham also noted that NIPSCO, unlike many of the other utilities in the survey, operates in an ozone and sulfur dioxide non-attainment area and must utilize expensive scrubber technology or purchase costly low-sulfure coal to meet standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Operating in a non-attainment area is definitely reflected in our electric rates,” he said. “Pollution control has always been a big factor for NIPSCO.”

 

Posted 8/11/2003