DPU survey results released

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By Jennifer Garcia

Results from a survey conducted on the performance of the county’s Department of Public Utilities revealed that most residents feel the department is on the right track.

Recently, results from a local customer satisfaction survey were released and nine out of 10 respondents rated the department’s overall performance as good or excellent, with a mean rating of 3.3 and 3.4 out of a possible high score of four.

Customers identified several areas for improvement, including, being reachable by telephone during outages and providing more information about extended power outages, minimizing the number of extended power outages, boosting public education campaigns on the benefits and availability of various payment modes and educating the public about the DPU’s online services.

Last month, the department received Roadrunner recognition at the Quality New Mexico ceremony held in Albuquerque.

“We want to thank customers who took the time to respond to our survey,” Arrowsmith said.  “We know that customers are the cornerstone to any business and by listening to customers we are able to improve existing services and map out future services in a targeted fashion to most efficiently meet our customers’ needs.”  

He also said that he and DPU staff were not surprised that customers identified extended power outages as an area where improvements could be made.

“Reliability is a critical priority with us and even though we devoted substantial efforts to bolster reliability starting back in 2006, we experienced some hiccups in 2008,” he said.

Possible ratings were 4 = excellent, 3 = good, 2 = fair or 1 = poor.

The survey was conducted last February by Vantage Marketing Research, who randomly surveyed 400 residential customers for a margin of error (confidence interval) no greater than ±4.9 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Also surveyed were 100 non-residential customers with a margin of error no greater than ±8.4 percentage points.

“As a county-owned public utility, customer service is paramount; so we’re pleased to see that our customers recognize that we value them,”  said Arrowsmith.

The survey is biennial and the first one was conducted in 2005, with follow-up surveys in 2007 and most recently in 2009 that monitored customer perceptions regarding service reliability, quality and communication effectiveness, according to Utilities officials.

According to a press release from the DPU, the largest change from the 2007 survey was an increase in the percentage of commercial customers who gave DPU’s overall performance a rating of excellent; 49 percent in 2009 as opposed to 34 percent in 2007.

Both residential and commercial customers rated gas, water and sewer services very highly in 2009, with almost no change in 2007. Gas services received a mean of 3.6 (approaching excellent) and 3.5 (above good).

Water services scored well above good with a mean of 3.5, and sewer services received a rating well above good at 3.4.  

Power outages that occurred in 2008 had a predictable effect on ratings for electric service.

The mean residential ratings for “overall reliability” and “restoring service when power is lost” was just above good at 3.1, but lower than the 2007 survey where residential and non-residential customers rated the same services at 3.4 and 3.2 respectively.  

The press release further stated residential and commercial customers gave field crews such as meter readers, electric linemen, gas water and sewer operators, a mean rating approaching excellent at 3.7 and 3.9 for “courtesy,” 3.5 and 3.8 for “knowledge,” 3.2 and 3.9 for “ability to solve the problem” and 3.4 and 3.9 for “overall customer service.”

Professionals at the 311 Customer Care Center also received good marks from residential and commercial customers. The 2009 mean rating for “courtesy” was well above good at 3.5; for “knowledge” it was 3.2; and for “overall customer service” it was 3.3 and 3.4.  

In an effort to minimize the number and extent of power outages, Arrowsmith said a very experienced electrical engineer was hired last October. “He coordinated our protection devices, modeled our electric system to coordinate fusing and replaced and added additional lightning arrestors,” he said.

Arrowsmith also mentioned that the DPU is investigating automated meter reading functions for the future, which will allow them to provide time-based pricing to customers and various other functions including water leak detection.

Copies of the 2009 customer satisfaction survey are available at the 311Customer Care Center located at 901 Trinity Drive, 2nd Floor, Los Alamos, NM; the White Rock and Los Alamos libraries, on the web at www.losalamosnm.us/utilities or by sending a request to dpu@lacnm.us.