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Published: Saturday, 2/16/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Customer satisfaction survey finds Toledo Edison last among Midwest utilities

Study had firms rate price, service, quality, reliability

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Toledo Edison is losing steam when it comes to satisfying its business customers, according to a customer satisfaction survey by J.D. Power and Associates.

In its 2013 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study, the local subsidiary of Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. ranked last out of 12 midsize utilities rated in the Midwest Region. J.D. Power surveyed 25,700 companies that spend at least $250 monthly for power purchased from the 95 largest utilities in the United States.

The study, in its 14th year, was based on research from April through June and September through December and measured six factors: power quality and reliability, billing and payment, corporate citizenship, price, communications, and customer service.

Toledo Edison was last in its category a second straight year.

Among the six factors, Toledo Edison was last in the Midwest in billing and payment, corporate citizenship, and price. Business customers ranked it 11th in power quality and reliability and communications, and eighth in customer service, said John Hazen, senior director of the energy utility practice at J.D. Power.

“They definitely have some work to do,” Mr. Hazen said.

Power quality and reliability can vary greatly depending on an area’s weather, Mr. Hazen said. But a utility can choose how active a corporate citizen it wants to be. Also, Mr. Hazen said, business customers tend to be more demanding than residential customers because they are more reliant on computers and data retrieval/usage.

“If the power goes out, do I send employees home or not? It’s really more serious because they have to make business decisions based on when the power will be restored,” Mr. Hazen said.

Patti Michel, a Toledo Edison spokesman, said the utility is trying hard to implement best practices and build relationships with customers, both business and residential. The utility recently introduced feedback maps to provide detail on outages, has launched mobile apps to report outages and check billing information, deployed new technologies, increased its social media presence, and upgraded equipment.

“We always look at our restorations processes to see how things can be improved. We take customer feedback seriously and want to improve,” she said. The utility is engaged in corporate citizenship through the Regional Growth Partnership and Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, and has been named one of the top utilities by Site Selection magazine, she added. Toledo Edison’s sister utility, The Illuminating Co., in Cleveland fared only a little better, ranking 10th.

Among large utilities in the Midwest, FirstEnergy’s Ohio Edison utility, which serves parts of Ottawa and Sandusky Counties, ranked second. In that same segment, southeast Michigan utilities DTE Energy and Consumers Energy ranked fifth and 10th, respectively. American Electric Power, which serves parts of Wood, Hancock, Seneca, Putnam, and Allen counties, finished 11th in the large utility category.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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