Some SMECO field employees and customer service representatives display SMECO's recent J.D. Power award for customer satisfaction. From left are Brian Rawlings, Calvin Thomas, Kimberly Farrell, Diamond Lewis, Shawn Harley, and Fay Wood.
HUGHESVILLE, Md. (July 28, 2008)—J.D. Power and Associates recognized Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) as a top award recipient for the 2008 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study. SMECO was the highest-rated electric utility in its class, those companies serving 125,000 to 499,999 residential customers in the East Region.
The study measures customer satisfaction with electric utilities by examining six key factors: power quality and reliability; price; billing and payment; corporate citizenship; communications; and customer service. SMECO consistently received the highest ratings of similar utilities in five of the six categories. In addition, SMECO was rated 57 points higher than the average utility in the East Midsize Segment in the J.D. Power study.
The study finds that customer satisfaction with utility companies in 2008 is up eight points from 2007. According to J.D. Power, the increase is primarily driven by improvements in two factors: customer service, and billing and payment. Customers are increasingly using alternative payment methods, such as automatic deductions from bank accounts and online payments, which yield higher satisfaction scores on average when compared with traditional mailing methods. SMECO has approximately 30 percent of its customer-members paying their bills online at the utility's Web site, one of the highest percentages of online payments for any electric utility in the nation.
SMECO President and CEO Austin Slater, Jr. attributes the positive results of the study to the cooperative business model. "Wherever you find a company that is owned by its customers, you'll find a partnership that is dedicated to continually improving its level of customer service. And," according to Slater, "that results in a higher level of success for the company."