CEO’s Report: Survey Says…

July 31, 2017

More than one-third of citizens polled unaware of public power service

The results of the customer survey are in and some of the answers are surprising.

Heartland decided to perform a customer survey in order to better understand end-users. We hoped to gauge their current relationships with their utilities and learn more about what they expect from their electricity provider.

We hired SDS Research who utilized both a telephone and online survey, reaching out to end-users throughout our customer base. Four hundred surveys were completed with 335 of those over the phone and 65 online.

SDS recently completed the survey and submitted their final report. While we are still sorting through all the data, I want to share some of the initial results we found most intriguing.

Room for improvement in touting public power story

One of the first questions asked was which best described their power utility along with a list of options. Fifty-three percent of respondents knew they were served by a public power utility. A good portion, 38%, didn’t know what type of company they were served by and a handful thought it was either an investor-owned utility or rural electric cooperative.

We often talk about the benefits of public power, but this information shows me we aren’t doing a good enough job educating end-use customers on where their electricity comes from. I believe it is extremely valuable for people to know they are being served by a public power utility, because its unique structure provides many advantages.

Benefits of public power

  • Local control is one of the greatest benefits, in my opinion, of public power. Decisions are made at the local level by people affected by those very decisions. Because municipalities are citizen-owned, the people are included in the decision-making process. Loyalty is to customers, not stockholders.
  • Electric revenues fund other essential services throughout each city, such as police and fire services and maintaining city streets and parks. Revenues are reinvested in the community, again not lining stockholders’ pockets.
  • Reliable, affordable power is the number one priority of public power utilities. For over a century, public power has thrived in America with the goal of keeping the lights on.

Also, public power utilities offer a better quality of life, because payments made in lieu of taxes help ease the local tax burden. Utilities create jobs and support or offer economic development programs and incentives. Customers can count on great customer service from people they know and trust–people who may be their friends and neighbors.

As you can see, public power is great news, and we need to do a better job of shouting it from the rooftops. American Public Power Association offers a great free resource detailing the advantages of public power. Heartland has a page on its website devoted to public power, and we hope to develop more materials in the future to help you help your customers understand what public power is and how public power utilities benefit the communities they serve.

Customers want a secure utility

Another question I found very interesting was how important it was that their electricity provider be concerned about cybersecurity. The net positive index, or NPI, of this question was 156. Essentially, any NPI over 100 is positive with between 130 and 150 being very positive. Clearly, there is an overwhelming desire for the utility to be mindful of the confidential information they’re holding.

We have talked extensively about cybersecurity in our newsletter and at customer meetings, and this survey confirms that our focus is on track. Heartland takes the cybersecurity of our municipal utilities seriously and works with industry partners to provide professional services to ensure your utility is secure.

We hope this survey response will encourage more of our customers to consider a cybersecurity program.

Satisfaction of End-Users

Three questions were asked in relation to satisfaction with their utility including overall satisfaction, value of service and communication. Ratings were given on a five-point scale with 5 being the most positive and 1 being the most negative.

All of the ratings for these questions were positive with the highest being overall satisfaction having an NPI of 137 and 54% of respondents rating 5. However, compared to benchmark numbers provided by SDS, these numbers are lower than we’d like them to be. The good news is now that we have this information, we can take steps to improve the numbers. Reliability was rated as the top area of primary focus utilities should concentrate on to receive very satisfied ratings in the future.

We will continue to further evaluate the report provided by SDS and share what we learned with you. In the meantime, we will be working to find new ways to educate end-users on the value of public power and improve satisfaction ratings.

I think we can all learn something from this survey and I believe we can work together to implement some very positive changes based on the results.

I hope you enjoy the remaining weeks of summer.