CSU ranks 3rd in West for water service customer satisfaction

Colorado Springs Utilities ranked third in its category in a customer satisfaction study of water service released May 6 by J.D. Power, which monitors customer sentiment.

The utility scored 746 on a 1,000-point scale ranking overall customer satisfaction with midsized water utilities in the West, placing it third in the category and above the segment average of 726.

The Irvine Ranch Water District and Eastern Municipal Water District, both in California, scored higher than CSU in the midsize category.

According to the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Water Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, 25 percent of Americans say they never drink their tap water. (The report had no specific figures on tap water for Colorado or Colorado Springs.)

“A combination of bad taste, bad smell, high mineral content and general fears about water safety are prompting a sizable portion of Americans — particularly in Western and Southern states — to avoid drinking their tap water,” said Andrew Heath, senior director of utilities intelligence at J.D. Power.

“Fixing these problems requires a significant focus on infrastructure, both to ensure water quality and to communicate with customers, showing them proof that infrastructure is well maintained and that the water is safe,” Heath said.

Key findings of the study:
  • Bad taste is hard to swallow: Among specific water quality issues that drive the decision to not consume tap water, the biggest deterrents are bad taste (11 percent); bad smell (10 percent); poor clarity (8 percent); scaling/water hardness (8 percent); and high lead/mineral content (5 percent).
  • Annual water quality report: Water utilities are required to test the tap water and publish an annual Consumer Confidence Report to reassure their customers that it’s safe to drink. Only 40 percent of customers recall seeing or receiving this report but when they do, 80 percent of them then say they drink the tap water.
  • Household water use increases during COVID-19, but misinformation persists: Water consumption has jumped significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 36 percent of households saying they are using more water than they did previously, which includes drinking 18 percent more glasses of water and doubling the number of times they wash their hands. Despite evidence to the contrary provided by the Centers for Disease Control, 41 percent of water utility customers across the country express concern regarding the transmission of COVID-19 through their drinking water supply.
  • Proactive communications have powerful effect, but few utilities deliver: Overall satisfaction scores are 106 points higher when customers recall receiving four or more proactive communications from their utility (phone call, email, text message or social media message) than when customers do not recall a proactive communication. Despite the powerful effect proactive communications have on customer satisfaction, just 5 percent of water utility customers recall receiving four or more communications from their utility. Less than one-third of customers recall receiving any communications from their water utility.
  • Digital channels show promise in closing communications gap: Across electric, gas and water utilities, customer satisfaction improves significantly when customers use their utility’s mobile apps and websites. Overall satisfaction among utility customers using digital only channels is 788, compared with 754 among those who use the phone only and 715 among those who have no interaction.

The study, now in its fifth year, measures customer satisfaction with large and midsized water utilities in the Northeast, South, Midwest and West geographic regions and covers 90 water utilities.

Overall satisfaction is measured by examining 33 attributes in six factors (listed in order of importance): quality and reliability; price; conservation; billing and payment; communications; and customer service.

For more information about the U.S. Water Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, visit jdpower.com/resource/water-utility-residential-customer-satisfaction-study.