July 19, 2011

E Source Announces Top Electric and Gas Company IVRs

BOULDER, Colo., July 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Consumers are enjoying a better experience when calling their electric and gas companies' interactive voice response systems (IVRs) compared to previous years, according to the "E Source Review of North American Electric and Gas Company IVRs: 2011." E Source found that 65 percent of the electric and gas companies reviewed improved the usability of their IVRs. In addition, none of the utility IVRs reviewed in 2011 are considered to be "very poor," unlike some of the IVRs reviewed in 2009.

The top-rated electric and gas company IVRs belong to Duke Energy, Portland General Electric, Florida Power & Light Co., NorthWestern Energy, Arizona Public Service, and Cleco. The top-rated Canadian utility IVR belongs to Union Gas Limited.

"The top-rated utilities have done a great job designing their IVRs with their customers in mind," says Rich Goodwin, manager of the E Source Utility Customer Care Service. "It's obvious that they are focused on making it easy for callers to complete their transactions."

E Source's comprehensive benchmark study, which has been conducted biannually since 2004, measures the performance of North American electric and gas company IVRs in meeting the needs of residential consumers. This year, 96 U.S. and Canadian IVRs were reviewed from the residential consumer's perspective, with a focus on how well they functioned for the key tasks that consumers expect to find on electric and gas company IVRs. The reviewers judged how usable they are -- or how user-friendly it was to accomplish the tasks.

Florence Connally, associate research director at E Source, says, "Providing a better experience with the IVR will lead to a better interaction with the customer service representative as well as encourage customers to take the next step and make use of self-service options available on the IVR."

For the first time, reviews were also conducted using mobile phones. Two tasks, Make a Payment and Report an Outage or Emergency, were reviewed solely from mobile phones. "As more consumers rely on their mobile phones or live in mobile-only households, the experience of navigating a company's IVR from a mobile phone cannot be ignored," says Sarah Fiebiger, senior research associate at E Source.

Northeastern U.S.
Allegheny Power, Duquesne Light, and Baltimore Gas and Electric had the top-performing IVRs in this region.

Midwestern U.S.
The top three IVRs in this region belong to DTE Energy, KCP&L, and OG&E.

Southern U.S.
Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light Co., and Cleco were named as the top utility IVRs in the southern region.

West U.S.
Portland General Electric, NorthWestern Energy, and Arizona Public Service have the top three IVRs in this region.

The top-performing IVRs in Canada belong to Union Gas Limited, Toronto Hydro Electric System, and Hydro One.

The "E Source Review of North American Electric and Gas Company IVRs: 2011" is based on the reviews of more than 1,200 calls to utility IVRs. These reviews were conducted between December 2010 and March 2011 by four typical residential energy customers who called 96 U.S. and Canadian utilities to see if 13 key residential customer service tasks could be found using their IVRs. The 13 tasks fell into three categories: general customer service, payment, and credit. The number of tasks found determined the functionality score of each IVR, and E Source used that score, coupled with the usability rating for each IVR, to rank each utility on a 1,000-point scale.

About E Source

E Source has been providing unbiased, objective energy business intelligence to over 300 utilities and large corporate energy users for more than 20 years. We provide analysis, research, and tools that increase the effectiveness of our clients' operations, programs, and customer relationships. Our research analysts and consultants supply expertise in energy efficiency, utility customer satisfaction, program design, marketing, energy management, energy procurement, supply management, and carbon management.

NOTE: One chart follows.

2011 Performance Ranking of U.S. and Canadian IVRs

Functionality and average usability ratings for each of the 96 IVRs reviewed were equally weighted and combined to determine each IVR's overall performance index number, with a maximum possible value of 1,000. The IVRs were then ranked in descending order by performance index number. First-quartile utilities have both above-average usability and more than 50 percent of the 13 tasks we looked for in this study.

    Ranking   Organization name        Performance
    Top quartile
    1         Duke Energy                      809
               Portland General
    2          Electric                        772
               Florida Power & Light
    3          Co.                             763
    3         NorthWestern Energy              763
    5         Arizona Public Service           721
    5         Cleco                            721
    7         Union Gas Limited                710
    8         PacifiCorp                       707
    9         DTE Energy                       693
    10        Allegheny Power                  685
               Sacramento Municipal
    11         Utility District                679
    12        Duquesne Light                   667
    12        KCP&L                            667
    14        NIPSCO                           644
               Baltimore Gas and
    15         Electric                        638
               Long Island Power
    16         Authority                       636
    16        OG&E                             636
               Wisconsin Public
    16         Service                         636
               Pacific Gas and
    19         Electric Co.                    626
    19        Philadelphia Gas Works           626
    19        Georgia Power                    626
    22        Alliant Energy                   620
    22        NW Natural                       620
    22        PNM                              620
    22        Vectren Corp.                    620

    Ranking   Organization name     Performance
    Second quartile
    26        Columbia Gas of Ohio          617
    27        Laclede Gas                   610
    27        Peoples Gas                   610
    29        Dayton Power & Light          609
    29        We Energies                   609
    29        Xcel Energy                   609
               Omaha Public Power
    32         District                     606
    32        Puget Sound Energy            606
               Toronto Hydro-
    32         Electric System              606
    35        Centerpoint Energy            605
    35        Progress Energy Inc.          605
    37        MidAmerican Energy            596
    38        Ameren                        591
               Connecticut Light &
    39         Power                        589
    40        Hydro One                     585
    41        NV Energy                     582
    41        PECO                          582
               American Electric
    43         Power                        573
    44        Austin Energy                 573
               Louisville Gas and
    44         Electric Co.                 573
    44        National Grid                 573
    44        Oklahoma Natural Gas          573
    48        Idaho Power Co.               567

    Ranking   Organization name            Performance
    Third quartile
    49        Consumers Energy                     564
    50        SRP (Salt River Project)             560
    51        CPS Energy                           558
               Jersey Central Power &
    51         Light                               558
               Public Service Electric &
    51         Gas                                 558
               South Carolina Electric &
    51         Gas (SCANA)                         558
    51        Southern California Edison           558
    51        Washington Gas                       558
    57        NSTAR                                555
    58        Pepco                                554
    58        Southwest Gas Corp.                  555
    60        Manitoba Hydro                       543
    60        Nova Scotia Power                    543
               Southern California Gas
    60         Co.                                 543
    63        TECO Peoples Gas                     537
    64        Hawaiian Electric Co.                529
    64        Piedmont Natural Gas                 529
               Memphis Light, Gas & Water
    66         Division                            527
    67        Hydro Ottawa                         522
    68        Tacoma Public Utilities              519
    69        Westar Energy                        517
    70        ComEd                                502
    70        Enbridge Gas                         502
    72        Dominion                             501
    72        Entergy Corp.                        501
    72        NB Power                             501
    72        PPL Electric Utilities               501
    72        Silicon Valley Power                 501

    Ranking   Organization name                  Performance
    Fourth quartile
               Consolidated Edison Co. of New
    77         York (Con Edison)                         481
    78        Black Hills Energy                         467
    78        Tucson Electric Power                      467
    80        Atmos Energy                               466
    80        San Diego Gas & Electric                   466
    82        BC Hydro                                   466
    83        Nicor Gas                                  449
    83        Questar Gas                                449
    85        Missouri Gas Energy                        448
    86        EPCOR                                      439
    87        Reliant Energy                             435
               Los Angeles Department of Water
    88         and Power                                 417
    89        New York State Electric & Gas              407
    90        Santee Cooper                              392
    90        TXU Energy                                 392
               FortisBC (reviewed as Terasen
    92         Gas)                                      373
    93        Hydro-Quebec                               365
    94        ENMAX                                      342
    95        Avista Utilities                           324
    96        Direct Energy                              282