Businesses have dim view of ComEd in survey

By Julie Wernau
Posted Feb. 22 at 3:30 p.m.

For the third year in a row, business customers have placed Commonwealth Edison second-to-last in customer satisfaction among its Midwest peers.

According to a J.D. Power and Associates study — based on interviews with representatives of more than 17,000 U.S. businesses that spend between $500 and $50,000 monthly on electricity — ComEd tied for second-to-last place with the state’s other major utility Ameren Illinois. Both received a score of 607 on a 1,000 point scale.

John Hazen, senior director at J.D. Power and Associates, said a chief complaint among ComEd customers is that they aren’t provided accurate information about when power will be restored.

“In the Midwest, you’re going to have power outages,” he said. “But what we see is that if you tell me it will be four hours and you’re accurate with that information, satisfaction is still pretty good. But if you tell me four hours and it ends up being six hours, that’s another story.”

Arlana Johnson, a spokeswoman for ComEd, said the utility strives to give its customers timely and accurate information through a variety of means, including an automated hotline message, outage maps on their web sites and text messaging. Later this year, ComEd is introducing an online portal for commercial and industrial customers, the company said, to check usage, pay bills and report and monitor outages.

More information is better than less information, and the more accurate the information, the better, said Jeff Conklin, senior director of the energy utility practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

“Particularly for business customers, time is money,” he said. “Providing accurate and comprehensive information about outages can help these customers make contingency plans and effectively plan resumption of their operations.”

ComEd is pushing legislation that they say would make it easier to plan for long-term investments in “smart” infrastructure — technology that would enable the utility to accurately pinpoint where outages occur and repair those outages in a timelier manner. The technology is being piloted in several Chicago-area communities.

“Automated restoration equipment could use wireless devices to communicate with ComEd’s operations command center to automatically isolate problems and re-route power to quickly restore customer,” Johnson said. “These same devices also would alert ComEd to growing problems on individual circuits so they can be corrected before an outage occurs.”

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  1. Publicus Feb. 22 at 5:49 pm

    ComEd could avoid a lot of its problems – and customer dissatisfaction – by burying its lines underground instead of leaving them above ground and exposed to every storm. Of course, for that kind of maintenance, ComEd never has any money – they just want more money from the customer to goose up the stock dividends and the executive bonuses.

  2. Rod Feb. 22 at 6:35 pm

    Second to last must be a mistake. ComEd is dead last!

  3. Zack Feb. 22 at 8:36 pm

    ComEd is the worst! I just got off the phone with them today regarding a ridiculous charge on my bill, after 30 min of giving me the run around and arguing with automated voices, I got nowhere! The worst I tell ya, the worst..

  4. LB Feb. 22 at 8:53 pm

    If my power is out, how do they expect me to be able to go to their online portal to report and monitor outages?

    They shouldn’t assume everyone has a smart phone with internet access and for those of us who do, we may not want to use battery power for their website if we don’t know how long it’ll be before we can charge our phones back up after wasting time on their site!

  5. RegularGuy Feb. 22 at 10:47 pm

    Accurate outage information really is their Achilles heel.

    During a summer outage, I called for status. The automated voice gave me a restoration time about two hours from the time I called. When two hours passed, I called again, and again was given a two-hour estimate.

    This scenario played itself out for the next 12 hours. Every two hours ComEd would change the restoration estimate by moving it back two hours.
    It was pretty clear to me that the automated system wasn’t basing its estimates on data coming in from the field. It was playing rope-a-dope with me, keeping me dangling for nearly a whole day. Had I known it was going to twelve hours, not two hours, I would have found some way to protect my frozen foods.

    If that’s the best they can do, they deserve the miserable reviews.

  6. Wayne B Feb. 22 at 11:49 pm

    Perfectly incompetent at furnishing reliable service and customer support.

  7. Chuck F Feb. 23 at 5:08 a.m.

    The absolute worst utility I’ve ever had to deal with. CILCO downstate was much better. Why do we allow this monopoly to charge us some of the highest rates in the country, when nuclear was supposed to be “too cheap to meter”?