Attribute Related Measures: Customer Satisfaction

1. Customer complaints

Description: This measure assesses the complaint rates experienced by the utility, with individual quantification of customer service and core utility service complaints.[1] As a “passive measure,” it will not likely be numerically representative (i.e., a statistically valid customer sample group) and is a “starting point” measure for understanding customer service problems.

Example calculations:

  • Number of complaints per 1,000 customers per reporting period, recorded as either customer service or technical quality complaints. These calculations are based on the QualServe Customer Service Complaints/Technical Quality Com­plaints Indicator.
    • Customer service complaint rate: 1,000 X (customer service associated complaints ÷ number of active customer accounts). This is a QualServe Indicator.[2]
    • Technical quality complaint rate: 1,000 X (technical quality associated complaints ÷ number of active customer accounts). This is a QualServe Indicator.[3]

For both calculations, utilities may wish to subcategorize complaints by type and aspect (e.g., customer service into billing, problem responsiveness, interruptions, etc., and technical quality into service deficiencies such as taste, odor, appearance, flow/pressure, etc.) and by type of customer (e.g., residential, industrial, commercial, etc.)

2. Customer service delivery

Description: This measure requires the utility, based on internal objectives and cus­tomer input, to set desirable customer service levels, then determine an appropriate (target) percentage of time to meet the performance levels. Once established, the utility can track how often it meets the service levels, helping the utility to determine how well customer needs are being satisfied (e.g., have 95 percent of service calls received a response within 60 minutes). A utility can average across individual mea­sures to determine the overall percentage of service level commitments met.

Example calculations:

  • Call responsiveness (percent): 100 X (number of calls responded to within “X” minutes ÷ total number of calls during reporting period) (typically per month).
  • Error-driven billing adjustment rate (percent): 100 X (number of error-driven billing adjustments during reporting period ÷ number of bills generated during reporting period). This is a QualServe Indicator.[4]
  • Service start/stop responsiveness (percent): 100 X (number of stop/start service orders processed within “X” days ÷ total number of stop/start service orders during reporting period).
  • First call resolution (percent): 100 X (number of calls for which problem was resolved/fixed/scheduled to be fixed at the time of the first call ÷ total number of calls during reporting period).

3. Customer satisfaction

Description: This is an overarching customer satisfaction measure based on requested customer feedback (surveys), not calls received or internal customer satisfaction ser­vice level commitments. A utility can measure customer satisfaction immediately after service provision or use a periodically performed, more comprehensive custom­er satisfaction survey. After-service surveys are simpler and easier for the utility to develop and implement without professional advice, but they tend to over represent the most satisfied (e.g., those who just received service) and the most dissatisfied (e.g., those who just called with complaints) customers. Comprehensive surveys can provide statistical validity enabling extrapolation to the population served. A utility can verify survey information through customer conversations, either as follow up to a survey, during public meetings or focus groups, or by some other method (e.g., individual telephone calls).

Example calculation:

  • Overall customer satisfaction: Percent of positive or negative customer satisfaction survey responses based on a statistically valid survey or on an immediately af­ter-service survey. Satisfaction responses can be divided into categories such as: highly satisfied/satisfied/moderately satisfied/unsatisfactory; exceeding expec­tations/meeting expectations/not meeting expectations; numerical scales (e.g., 1-5); or other divisions. Customer satisfaction information is often also gathered and assessed by topic areas such as product quality, service reliability, billing ac­curacy, customer service, costs/rates/value, crew courtesy, notification around street construction/service interruptions, etc.

More information on resources for this attribute-related measure can be found in the EUM Resource Toolbox.

[1] From AWWA and AwwaRF, Selection and Definition of Performance Indicators for Water and Wastewater Utilities, p. 41. 2004. Note: This material is copyrighted and any reprinting must be by permission of the American Water Works Association
[2] Ibid., p. 41.
[3] 5 Ibid., p. 42.
[4] 6 Ibid., p. 49.