While residential customers are generally satisfied with their local natural gas utility company, as many as 45% are willing to pay more for an improved service, according to the JD Power and Associates '2002 Gas Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study'.
The study measured customer satisfaction among fifty of the largest local gas distribution companies in the USA, basing the overall index on five factors: company image, price and value, billing and payment, field service and customer service. Billing and payment and customer service were cited by most respondents as areas that need the most improvement.
"Our research indicates that, as the gas utility industry grows, providers will need to better understand the impact of customer satisfaction, and the services it makes available, such as online billing and bill payment," said Alan Destribats, executive director of the JD Power utility practice. "When customers say they are willing to pay more for a better service, that's something a utility provider should take seriously."
The study found that consumers in the west and south are more satisfied with their gas providers than customers in the east and midwest.
Consumers in areas that rely heavily on gas for heating, such as the east and midwest, tend to use more gas - a fact which is reflected by higher monthly bills. This may help to explain why those regions suffer lower satisfaction scores than the warmer regions, where gas is mainly a simple 'lifestyle commodity'.
The study, which was based on over 9,000 telephone interviews with US residential gas customers, conducted during June and July 2002, also revealed that 44% of consumers who do not currently have gas would prefer it as a fuel source for many of their household appliances, and that 15% are seriously considering converting to gas in the near future.