At AEP, our goal is to provide world-class customer service while creating a positive lasting relationship with our customers.
Customers judge their experience with any company in terms of quality, reliability, billing and payment. Today, electric customers also want choices, reasonably priced electricity and greater control of their energy use. And they are more likely to engage publicly, increasingly through social media posts, when they are unhappy. Their perceptions of how well AEP is delivering on their expectations can directly impact our reputation, as well as influence financial and regulatory outcomes.
Demonstrating that we care about our customers in every interaction is the hallmark of a positive customer experience. Providing reliable and reasonably priced service is just the beginning. We have to understand and anticipate what our customers want and make it easier for customers interact with us in their channel of choice. One way to measure our performance is through customer satisfaction surveys.
J.D. Power Electric Utility Customer Satisfaction Study
AEP regularly engages with residential, commercial and industrial customers using a variety of phone and online surveys, including the J.D. Power Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction StudySM. The 2017 survey measured satisfaction among 137 electric utility brands in the U.S. Satisfaction is evaluated according to a variety of factors: power quality and reliability, price, billing and payment, corporate citizenship, communications, and customer service. AEP’s results show that overall customer satisfaction continues to increase; our operating companies recorded improvements in overall customer satisfaction from the prior year. However, we can do better, and we are committed to improving our customer satisfaction results.
In 2017, we set a customer satisfaction goal for most of our operating companies to be ranked in the top quartile of the J.D. Power Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study within their respective industry segments over the next three years. Although we are currently ranked below several of our peers, we are confident that through our Customer Experience Strategy and newly implemented customer solutions, such as our customer bill redesign and mobile app, we will achieve our goals. In addition, this goal has been directly tied to incentive compensation.
Residential Customer Panel
Sometimes we need to take the pulse of our customers to test an idea for a service or solution we’re considering. Having a forum to test insights and ideas among customers is very valuable, especially as we work to become a more agile company.
AEP partnered with Bellomy Research to create a proprietary online panel of more than 5,500 residential customers across our service territory. Randomly recruited panelists typically have the opportunity to participate in one to two surveys monthly. Survey topics vary based on our research needs. In 2017, we surveyed customers on a range of issues, including outage notification enhancements, novel rate designs and energy efficiency. Compared with traditional market research projects, the advantages of having an online panel include lower cost, greater survey design flexibility, and shorter turnaround to get actionable results.
Customer Satisfaction – Recognition and Awards
Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) and Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) were two of a select group of electric-only utilities named 2017 Residential Customer Champions in a Cogent Reports study by Market Strategies International. I&M ranked second among electric-only companies in the Midwest and PSO ranked fourth in the South. The study surveyed almost 60,000 customers from the 130 largest U.S. utility companies. The Customer Champion distinction was awarded to 17 of 60 electric-only utilities plus 32 other natural gas and electric companies. This distinction is an example of how customer value and satisfaction is actually being realized through our continued focus on improving the customer experience.
AEP Ohio earned top honors in the 2017 Large Business Gap and Priority Benchmark survey by E Source. More than 1,300 large business customers were surveyed in E Source’s nationally recognized benchmark, which measures utility key account customer satisfaction. AEP Ohio received high scores for reliability, which was identified as the quality considered most important to large business customers when it comes to utilities. AEP Ohio also earned high marks in other areas, including customer satisfaction and perceived value of its account management team. The team was specifically praised by large business customers for being trustworthy, easy to contact, and providing appropriate communication, especially during energy emergencies.
AEP’s National Accounts team was also recognized for its excellence in customer satisfaction by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), winning the 2017 Outstanding National Key Accounts Customer Service award. In addition, two employees were recognized with the National Key Accounts Executive Award for Sustained Excellence in Outstanding Customer Service. These awards align with AEP’s strategic goal of improving the customer experience by offering innovative energy solutions and excellent customer service.
Measuring and monitoring customer satisfaction is something we do all the time, asking our customers for their opinions of AEP in online or phone surveys. There are 15 customer relationship attributes we ask customers to grade us on, from how easy it is to do business with AEP to their understanding of their bills. When customers say they are very satisfied with their overall experience and rate AEP as “excellent” on all 15 attributes, then we have created a “magical moment.” We celebrate these magical moments with our employees because it means that we did everything right in meeting or exceeding customers’ expectations.
Examples of Magical Moments:
“They have always done a good job in the community. When they are out working on our street, you can go out and ask those guys what’s going on. They will tell you exactly what's going on. They always tell you when they are going to turn your power off, and for how long.”
- 12/14/17 AEP Texas, Residential Customer
“When there’s a power outage, AEP responds quickly to restore power. They provide neighborhood lights for my safety in this dangerous neighborhood. When my bill was incorrect, they found the error and corrected it. They make available Homeserve warranties. Their technicians are personable and knowledgeable and treat me with courtesy, understanding my needs for better lighting around my house. The rate is the best, for I've tried other aggregate companies, and I always paid more. I love and trust AEP.”
- 2/23/17 AEP Ohio, Residential Customer
“The service people they have in the Wilburton area take care of people very well. As a matter of fact, they come by and check on us once in a while to make sure we are doing well. Their service man takes good care of the area, checks with the customers, and stays involved with the community.”
- 3/1/17 PSO, Commercial Customer
“Kentucky Power responds in a very timely manner. I feel, considering the obstacles that the company has to overcome to provide power to me where I live in Eastern Kentucky, that they are doing a superb job. Thank you Kentucky Power for a job well done!”
- 2/1/17 Kentucky Power, Commercial Customer