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FPL earns its best marks but utility industry lags in customer satisfaction

A display panel with FPL’s logo was part of the unveiling ceremony in April for a new solar array at the college of engineering at Florida International University. Faculty and students will use the 1.4-megawatt cluster to find solutions to a statewide energy challenge to keep the power on in all weather. The solar system came through a five-year, $660,000 research grant.
A display panel with FPL’s logo was part of the unveiling ceremony in April for a new solar array at the college of engineering at Florida International University. Faculty and students will use the 1.4-megawatt cluster to find solutions to a statewide energy challenge to keep the power on in all weather. The solar system came through a five-year, $660,000 research grant. emichot@miamiherald.com

Florida Power & Light received the top ranking for residential customer satisfaction among large electric providers in the South, according to the J.D. Power Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study released Wednesday.

FPL also ranked second highest in the nation among all large electric providers.

J.D. Power’s annual study measures electric utilities based on surveys of their customers. FPL’s 2016 score (724 on a 1,000-point scale) is the highest the company has achieved in the study’s 18 years.

“We’re honored to serve our customers so we’re humbled to know they value the work we do,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL, said in a statement released by FPL. “We’re proud that our service is cleaner and more reliable than ever before while our typical customer bills are the lowest in Florida and among the lowest in the nation, and we want our customers to know we plan to continue investing in improvements to their service.”

FPL has applied to the state Public Service Commission for increases to its base rate that would amount to about 25 percent by the time all annual increased are included. The PSC’s hearing is scheduled to begin in August. The rate increases would begin in 2017.

In announcing its survey results, J.D. Power said there are big differences in customer satisfaction from industry to industry.

Although customer-reported monthly electric bills have fallen to their lowest levels in 10 years and overall satisfaction is on the rise, electric utility providers continue to struggle to match other industries in customer satisfaction, J.D. Power said in a release distributed by PR Newswire.

The study measures customer satisfaction with electric utility companies by examining six factors: power quality and reliability; price; billing & payment; corporate citizenship; communications, and customer service.

Overall satisfaction in the industry has improved for the fourth consecutive year, averaging 680, up by 12 points from 2015. However, the industry continues to trail far behind many other industries J.D. Power tracks, including auto insurance (averaging 811 in 2016), retail banking (793), and airline (726). Only 11 of the 137 utility brands included in the study outperform the airline industry average, J.D. Power said.

“The lesson that utilities can learn from other high-performing service providers is that to excel you need a culture that puts customers and employees first,” said John Hazen, senior director of the utility practice at J.D. Power. “And because customer expectations continue to increase, you need to have a mindset of continuous improvement to keep up.”

The 2016 study marks the first time FPL has achieved the top ranking in its segment, which includes electric utilities in the southern U.S. with more than 500,000 customers. FPL also achieved the highest score among Florida utilities of all sizes.

J.D. Power said its annual study was based on responses from 101,138 online interviews conducted July 2015 through May 2016 among residential customers of 137 electric utility brands across the United States, which collectively represent more than 97.7 million households.

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