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Study: Gas Utility Business Customers More Satisfied with Service

Gas utility business customers are "significantly" more satisfied with their service now than they were a year ago, according to a study by market researcher J.D. Power and Associates. At the 38 largest U.S. gas utilities, the study found the overall satisfaction index scores for business customers have increased an average of 37 points to 723 on a 1,000-point scale.

Gas utilities showed "considerable improvements" on the five performance factors measured: billing and payment; communications; company image; customer service; field service; and price. The 2007 Gas Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study is based on more than 6,000 online interviews with U.S. businesses that are gas utility customers. Responses were compiled between Nov. 21, 2006 and Jan. 15.

"In 2006, business customers braced themselves for an anticipated 20% increase in their gas bills during the upcoming year," said Al Destribats, vice president of J.D. Power's energy practice. "However, the increase was much less substantial than first believed, with customer-reported bill amounts rising by only 4%. This no doubt impacted satisfaction levels."

The study also noted the role utility senior management plays in satisfying business customers.

"Business customers were asked if they had interacted with a senior manager of their utility in order to determine the impact this kind of contact had on customer satisfaction," said Destribats. "These interactions, combined with effective account management and communications programs, provide a substantial increase to customer satisfaction."

This study identified opportunities to improve customer satisfaction in the business segment. For example, offering value-added services, such as online payments, virtual customer service and energy conservation programs, may improve customer satisfaction.

KeySpan ranked highest in the East, while Missouri Gas Energy ranked first among gas utilities in the Midwest. In the South, Piedmont Natural Gas led, while in the West, Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Gas Co. were tied.

Following KeySpan, utilities also performing well in the East region included New Jersey Natural, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Con Edison and Washington Gas Light. After Missouri Gas Energy, other top Midwest performers included Kansas Gas Service, Columbia Gas of Ohio, Duke Energy, Laclede Gas, MidAmerican Energy, CenterPoint Energy-Minnesota, Northern Indiana Public Service and Vectren. Piedmont Natural Gas' lead in the South was followed by Texas Gas Service and Atmos Energy-South. And in the West, top performers also included Puget Sound Energy and Xcel Energy.

For more information on the study, visit www.jdpower.com.

©Copyright 2007 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.

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