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J.D. Power survey: PSEGLI improves, but last among peers

An old electric meter is pictured on a

An old electric meter is pictured on a house in Suffolk County. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

PSEG Long Island raised its customer-satisfaction score among residential customers in the most recent J.D. Power & Associates survey, but the utility still ranks last in the nation among 72 large and midsize utilities.

PSEG, which took over management of the Long Island electric grid in 2014, scored 610 out of a possible 1,000 in the 2016 survey, a 26-point improvement from the 584 it received in the survey last year.

All other utilities surveyed across the nation scored higher, including local rivals PSE&G of New Jersey, which scored 690; Con Edison, which scored 672; and National Grid’s upstate operation, which scored 646.

Dan Eichhorn, vice president of customer service at PSEG, said despite the ranking, PSEG is a year ahead of its contractual requirement for the score with the Long Island Power Authority.

He also noted that individual components of the score were higher, including 735 on customer service.

J.D. Power attributed the general improvement in scores to electric bills hitting their lowest levels in 10 years, as well as improved satisfaction with utilities. The study examines power quality and reliability, price, billing and payment, corporate citizen, communication and customer service.

Overall satisfaction among all utilities is up 12 points from 2015, to an average 680, J.D. Power said.

While PSEG’s score remains the lowest in the nation, it is still within the range that allows the company to receive an incentive bonus from LIPA. In a twist, PSEG’s contract with LIPA requires only that it reach a top-quartile ranking in 2018 using 2013 comparative scores, not the generally higher scores that utilities in the top quartile have been earning since that time. Eichhorn said PSEG nevertheless has an internal goal of reaching scores well beyond the LIPA-contractual goal.

PSEG receives an annual fixed management fee of $58 million, and can earn an extra $8.7 million if it meets or exceeds a list of performance measures, which include customer satisfaction, worker safety and power restoration. Last year, PSEG missed two worker safety metrics and one for meter reading. LIPA has since agreed to allow changes to reset the worker safety metrics, among others.

Eichhorn said a number of initiatives planned for the rest of 2016 will further improve the utiliy’s score, including newly designed and simplified customer bills due out this summer, a new “my account” web page set to launch Aug. 15, and an improved balanced billing program in the fourth quarter.

“We’re in a position now where, instead of being a half lap behind of everybody in the race we’re right on the heels of everybody,” Eichhorn said. “Over the next six months we are going to really transform the customer experience.”

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