For the fifth consecutive year, EPB in Chattanooga has been ranked the best midsize electric utility in the South by its residential customers.
J.D. Power, a consumer analytics company which rates utilities and other businesses each year based upon their consumer satisfaction, said EPB had the highest ratings by its electricity customers of any local power company in the Tennessee Valley and the highest of any midsize utility anywhere in the South.
John Hazen, managing director of utilities intelligence at J.D. Power, said the company's online surveys and customer satisfaction metrics showed an overall improvement in how customers view their electricity providers this year. A major reason for the overall improvement has been the deferral of cutoffs and power at most utilities during the pandemic, Hazen said. Among customers aware of assistance programs provided by the utility, customer satisfaction scores averaged 795 (on a 1,000 point scale) compared with a score of 719 among customers unaware of such assistance.
"These satisfaction scores are evident that kindness and being a good corporate citizen during challenging times is worth all the effort and communication that goes with it," Hazen said. "The challenge will come in 2021 as electric providers go back to business as usual and continue collections and shut-offs."
EPB, like many utilities, suspended cutoffs this year for those hurt by the coronavirus. But even before the pandemic, EPB's cutoff rate was one of the lowest of any of the 153 local power companies served by the Tennessee Valley Authority because of its active efforts to work out repayment plans or refer customers to assistance programs, such as the federal government's Low-Income Heating Assistance Program or private charities such as the Metropolitan Ministries.
EPB also benefits by not having raised its base power rates for the past couple of years and its telecommunications network which offers the only citywide gigabyte-per-second broadband service in the nation.
But EPB was challenged in April by the costliest storm to ever hit the city-owned utility in April when a series of tornadoes knocked power off to more than 60,000 customers and caused over $35 million of damages. EPB also reported lower power sales this year because of the pandemic and the business closing that resulted from the springtime shutdown of many businesses.
The Chattanooga utility provides electricity to more than 160,000 customers and internet, video or phone service through EPB Fiber Optics to more than 110,000 homes and businesses.
"Everything we do is focused on serving our customers and our community as a whole," David Wade, president, CEO of EPB, said in a statement after the J.D. Power rankings were announced for 2020. "I am so proud of the hard work our employees have done in the face of so many challenges this year."
Among large utilities in the South, customer satisfaction was the highest at Florida Power & Light, according to J.D. Power.
The 2020 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 96,546 online interviews conducted from January through November 2020 among residential customers of the 143 largest electric utility brands across the United States, which represent more than 102 million households.
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