Based on a survey of 850 local gas distributors, industrial companies, power companies, producers and other marketers, Oneok, ConocoPhillips, BP, Sempra and Coral Energy were the top five companies in Mastio & Co.’s customer satisfaction ranking of major gas marketers, but the smaller regional marketers played a much more prominent role last year than in previous years, the St. Joseph’s, MO-based research firm said.

Many other firms, most notably Reliant, AEP, Mirant, El Paso and TXU, dropped completely out of the ranking, according to Mastio spokesman Kevin Huntsman. In fact, there really were only a total of seven major marketers left out of a total of 52 marketing companies making the Mastio ranking. The rest of the companies now fall into the regional marketing category.

The top five regional marketers in ranked order were: Texican Natural Gas Co., U.S. Energy Services, Inc., Prior Energy, ProLiance Energy, and Centerpoint Energy Marketing. The companies experiencing the greatest improvement from 2002 to 2003 were Crosstex Energy, U.S. Energy Services, Entergy-Koch Trading, Seminole Energy Services, Enbridge Energy, Apache Corp. and Tenaska Marketing Ventures.

“We used to have about 20 major marketers and now there are really only a few left,” noted Mastio spokesman Kevin Huntsman. “You hear a lot more about the regional marketers than you used to. You are seeing more about companies like ProLiance Energy and Texican. They have always been in the study but they are getting more ratings and hits than they had in the past. There were quite a few new companies. ” Huntsman also noted that ChevronTexaco received a lot of responses from customers but hardly ever was mentioned in the past because Dynegy did all of its marketing until last year.

Oneok and ConocoPhillips showed the greatest improvement in serving its customers among the major marketing companies from 2002 to 2003, Mastio said in its seventh edition of the “Natural Gas Marketer Customer Satisfaction/Customer Value, Marketing Effectiveness, Benchmarking & Image Report.”

Each respondent to the survey rated marketers on 31 customer satisfaction attributes including: ease of doing business, consistency of account management, integrity of supplier, credit rating of supplier, sales representatives who listen well and overall performance. The most important issue, according to buyers of natural gas, in the latest customer satisfaction study was reliability of gas supply. Second in importance was historical dependability in meeting commitments, and the third most important item was the “integrity” of the supplier, Mastio said.

Issues such as “integrity” and “knowledge” continue to be extremely important as purchasers look for assistance and guidance in this ever changing market place, Mastio said. One attribute that was added to the latest edition was creditworthiness, which became one of the top issues for customers in 2003. “The importance of [creditworthiness] illustrates the continued importance of a strong balance sheet as well as a customer centric culture,” Mastio said.

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