Customers rate PUD high for service, courtesy

Results of a December 2009 survey of its customers show Public Utility District No. 1 of Clallam County rates well in customer service but needs to better educate the public on power cost issues and boost awareness of PUD conservation programs.

Such were the highlights of findings presented to the district's board of commissioners.

Hebert Research, Inc., of Bellevue contacted 404 residential customers and 150 commercial customers in early December.

Although the survey was conducted shortly after

a series of major wind-

storms in late November disrupted service to many customers, residential customers gave high ratings for service reliability and the quality of power restoration.

Service reliability was rated 9.1 on the survey's one-to-10 scale, and the PUD's performance in "timely, satisfactory restoration" was rated 8.8.

Courtesy lauded

PUD customer service and operations employees received strong ratings for expertise, courtesy and willingness to listen, length of time when waiting to speak with a representative and individual's authority to solve problems.

Ratings by residential customers in eight different areas ranged from 7.95 to 9.4, with an overall satisfaction rating of 8.75.

Hebert Research said the PUD ratings were superior to those it typically sees in the utility sector.

"These ratings are welcome and encouraging news," said PUD general manager Doug Nass.

"They demonstrate that customers notice our dedication to continually improving service and reliability. The introduction of our outage management system technology and practices and the dramatic ramping up our vegetation management program to keep trees and limbs away from power lines are just of few of the major initiatives we've undertaken to bolster our efficiencies and managing our costs."

Need to educate

The survey also showed considerable need to educate customers in several areas that have a major impact on electric utility services and costs. The PUD and its customers face the challenge of significant increases in the costs of power because the Northwest's hydroelectric resources are fully allocated and new sources are more expensive.

Part of the strategy to keep rising costs manageable is a dramatic increase in the role of energy conservation programs. When asked about seven different PUD conservation programs, even the district's lighting efficiency programs with the highest level of awareness had only a 58-percent awareness rating.

Another area of need is the public misunderstanding of the major impacts of the PUD's mandated compliance with the Washington Energy Independence Act, which requires the utility to increase the amount of energy it obtains from new sources of renewable resources - primarily wind -- and excludes hydroelectricity.

Rates to rise

Only 38 percent of survey respondents correctly understood that these sources would increase rates. The balance either erroneously thought such energy sources as wind and solar would decrease rates or keep them the same, or they didn't know.

"The survey provides valuable information for targeting our customer communications on these important issues that will impact their rates, especially including legislative areas and BPA increases that are beyond local control," said Nass.

The surveys can be accessed at the PUD's Web site in the About Us section.

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