February 5, 2024 / By Current Affairs

Understanding members' customers with Diana Dominique  

Members' customers are always top of mind in the electricity sector. Every year, Electricity Canada conducts a nation-wide customer satisfaction survey on behalf of our utility members to crunch the numbers and learn first-hand, how they can continue to make electricity safe, sustainable and affordable for Canadians. To learn more about the results of the 2023 National Customer Survey, Current Affairs sits down with Electricity Canada’s Senior Director of Customer Solutions and Sustainability, Diana Dominique.  

  Hi Diana, thank you for joining us. Can you talk to us a little bit about how this survey came to be and why it’s so important for our members and Electricity Canada?  

We’ve been conducting this national customer survey since 1988 and it's largely focused on the residential customer segment and members find value in the national perspective regarding customer satisfaction.    

We've inserted some actionable insights into the survey, so seeing those areas that we need to focus on, members find that valuable, and the regional insights as well.     

The results are in, take us through some of the key trends that were found, is there anything surprising?  

The key trends that we saw from this year's research are that largely the general satisfaction and Customer Satisfaction Index is largely stable, which is really great to hear! In terms of general satisfaction, 72% of customers say they are satisfied with their electricity distributors and this percentage is higher among those who have familiarity with the system. Generally, people feel that they get good service and that their electricity is reliable.   

It's an overall good news story for the industry and in my work with the Customer Council and the Sustainability Committee, members have been working hard on these things that matter most to customers. It's really good to see that the work we've been doing over the last number of years is reflected in the data.   

When we talk about those things that are important for us to focus on, its corporate social responsibility and customer focus. Those are two measures that are connected with brand trust. A ‘customer focus’ includes things like caring about the customer and being transparent, while ‘corporate social responsibility’ includes those metrics like operating in an environmentally responsible manner and protecting public safety.    

The surprise is that price and value have held steady this year. That's really encouraging for the industry and we think that a reason for this could be that electricity rates have not increased at the level of inflation like let's say, gas and groceries. People generally are satisfied with the prices that they're paying and the value of electricity that they're getting. However, compared to other tested metrics, it is still a bit weaker, so we have work to do on this in the future.    

Another surprise is that compared to last year, the satisfaction for all reliability and power quality attributes has declined, even though the number of power outages that customers have been experiencing have stayed the same.    

This last one isn’t really a surprise to us because we’ve seen it before, but people are just not engaged when it comes to the energy transition even though we're seeing more extreme weather events. Canadians care about climate change, but when it hits their pocketbook, they’re not as concerned.    

What is most important for Canadian electricity customer and why?  

 I think not only this year, but going back to what we just said, price has always been the number one important factor for customers. Inflation has a major impact on household finances. And that we saw that 67% of customers stated that making electricity prices more affordable was a top priority. This was followed by strengthening the electricity grid to make it more resilient to severe weather events and grid modernization, so that customers had more choice around technology.    

Based off of these results, how do you anticipate the results coming through for 2024?     

In 2024 things can change quickly, but I think it will largely remain around inflation and affordability. Thats going to be the key thing for our sector. I think the results will reflect that sense in terms of what I mentioned before, mortgages will come due in the next few years, and they'll be more pressure on people in terms of affordability for those low income and vulnerable customers, and even for middle class Canadians. We will be monitoring this.    

We’ve also found that customers don’t really think about electricity that much until there's a power outage or when they get their bill. As an industry, we need to make sure that we really do a better job of communicating the value of electricity to our customers.   

For more information on the Customer Council and Electricity Canada’s customer research, please contact Diana Dominique (dominique@electricity.ca).