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Duke Energy losing favor with customers, survey finds

The Duke Energy Center towers over Charlotte’s South Tryon Street.
The Duke Energy Center towers over Charlotte’s South Tryon Street. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

Customers reported declining happiness with Duke Energy for a second straight year, according to a national consumer survey.

Customer satisfaction is waning for most of the large investor-owned utilities, dropping 2.7 percent since last year, the American Customer Satisfaction Index reported. ACSI uses data from interviews with 70,000 customers a year to analyze 43 industries.

Duke’s satisfaction rating dropped from 72 percent in 2015 to 70 percent this year. That ranks near the bottom of the 26 investor-owned utilities ranked.

Duke also showed the steepest plunge in customer satisfaction among those utilities since 1994, when the surveys began at the University of Michigan, dropping 14.6 percent.

ASCI doesn’t shed light on why individual utilities rank higher or lower over time. Duke spokeswoman Paige Layne said another annual survey, by J.D. Power, does offer those insights and has showed improved consumer ratings for utilities including Duke.

“We are listening to what customers are telling us, and we’re moving in that direction,” Layne said.

The Charlotte-based company is the nation’s largest electric utility, with 7.3 million customers in six states following a 2012 merger with Progress Energy. Another acquisition, of Piedmont Natural Gas, is expected to close by the end of this year.

“Utilities customers are sensitive to two things: price and disruption,” ACSI chairman Claes Fornell said in a statement.

“While energy prices have been stable and have not increased dramatically, wages remain stagnant and monthly energy bills are a constant drain on disposable income. Consumers expect the lights to turn on and the AC to work when they flip the switch. ACSI data suggests that consumers have reduced confidence in utilities’ ability to respond and recover from outages.”

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender

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