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PSEG rises in interim customer satisfaction survey

A PSEG worker at scene of downed wires

A PSEG worker at scene of downed wires caused by strong winds on Grove Avenue in Patchogue on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017. Credit: James Carbone

PSEG Long Island has risen from the last-place position that LIPA had long held in the latest interim JD Power residential customer satisfaction survey, a milestone for a company that took over the reins of the system in 2014.

In the survey, released at a LIPA trustees meeting last week, PSEG scored 683 of a possible 1,000 points in the three months ending in December, raising its standing to 14th of 16 Northeast utilities for the quarter that ended in December.

The results lifted PSEG off the bottom of the ranking for the first time since its 2014 start date. In the three months prior, PSEG also saw an increase in its standing from 16 to 15.

For the full prior year, which included two quarters of 2015, PSEG scored 610. LIPA scored 519 in 2013 when National Grid ran the system, a figure affected by superstorm Sandy’s nearly 1 million customer outages. The utility scored 532 in 2014 and 584 for 2015.

PSEG stressed the interim nature of the latest results, as JD Power bases formal rankings on four quarters, or “waves,” of results that are released in the summer.

The survey polls hundreds of Long Island customers on six categories: power quality and reliability, price, corporate citizenship, billing and payment, communication, and customer service. PSEG showed the biggest gains in power quality and customer service.

PSEG Long Island president and chief operating officer Dave Daly credited improvements in system infrastructure, including a federally funded storm-hardening initiative and expanded tree trimming, and a focus on customer service.

Daly said he reviews a handful of customer complaints each week, and drills down into the root causes of the complaints, not just the immediate fix. The effort, he said, “continues to drive out” overall complaints.

The disclosure comes as PSEG finished a year in which it met 23 of 25 performance standards in its contract with LIPA, but failed on two measures of restoring customer outages, resulting in PSEG missing $700,000 in incentive revenue.

PSEG ended 2016 with an average customer outage rate of 1.11 per customer annually, higher than its LIPA target of 0.92 outages. PSEG also missed the metric for the average duration of customer outages, which was 75.5 minutes last year, compared with a target of 68.5 minutes. Daly blamed an increase in storms, computer issues and a new safety procedure for increasing outage numbers. He said measures are in place to address those issues this year.

PSEG is showing improvements in other measures that affect customer satisfaction.

In a state ranking of customer complaints, PSEG hit a four-year low of just 5.7 complaints per thousand customers for 2016, down from 7.7 in 2015 and 10.4 in 2014. The number of complaints in 2016 was 778 compared with 1,039 in 2015 and 1,400 in 2014, PSEG reported.

Those figures put PSEG as the top-rated utility in the state in 2016 on customer complaints among 10 top gas and electric utilities.

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