We are committed to meeting our customers' energy needs and expectations – reliably, responsibly and affordably. Our goal is to provide them with superior service and tools to conserve energy, manage costs and help reduce environmental impacts.
Reliable service is one of the things our customers tell us they value the most. Our goal is to meet those expectations and deliver outstanding and affordable service on a consistent basis.
For our electricity customers, the key performance measure is how well we do at keeping the lights on. Frequent or long power outages frustrate customers and damage our reputation for quality service. Outages also drive up our costs, which ultimately results in higher electric bills for our customers. That is a lose/lose scenario – one that we work hard to avoid.
The nationally recognized reliability and operational efficiency standard we use to measure performance in this area – how well we keep the lights on – is the System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI). The index consists of the sum of all customer service interruptions by duration divided by the total number of customers served.
Dominion uses three-year SAIDI averages to assess our performance over time and to smooth out any peaks or valleys that can result from either an extreme number of severe weather events, or the lack of them, in any given year.
Under this index, service reliability has improved significantly in the past decade. Social media continues to grow in importance as a tool for communicating interactively with customers and local municipalities about outages and emergency response efforts. (See Public Health & Safety).
Natural Gas Service
On the gas distribution side of our business, service disruptions may result from pipeline pressure losses and fluctuations in flow rates that signal a gas leak in the system, or from third-party damage to mains or service lines.
Our service teams at Dominion East Ohio and at Dominion Hope (West Virginia) respond to customers’ outage-related service requests as quickly as possible. We measure our emergency response performance in 15-minute increments, from receipt of a service call request to time of arrival at the customer’s home or business.
In 2011, we responded to 97.8 percent of all emergency calls within 60 minutes, a slight decline from our response rates in 2009 and 2010. We attribute this drop to the installation and launch of a new computerized dispatching and tracking system in Ohio. We plan to introduce the Mobile Application Technology & Communication Hub system at Dominion Hope in 2012.
In all cases, whether it is electricity or natural gas service, our goal is to get customers back on line as quickly and as safely as possible while providing them with timely and accurate information about their service status. Electronic outage management systems pioneered by Dominion and other technology-based tools support the physically demanding work of our field crews who re-route gas lines and re-string power lines under potentially hazardous conditions.
Customer Service & Satisfaction
Customer care is a core responsibility at Dominion. Our focus is helping customers manage their energy costs and making it convenient to do business with us. One way we do this is to take advantage of new technologies that give customers more opportunities to understand the value of their energy dollar and make smart choices about their energy use.
Technology Drives Service Enhancements
Technology-driven process improvements provide a valuable tool for enhancing the services we provide customers, while reducing costs at the same time. Our customers tell us they want more energy information and control in their hands – a key factor in boosting satisfaction levels.
Many customers – nearly 1 million as of January 2012 – are taking advantage of our online account management options. Our emphasis continues to be placed on maximizing customer convenience through the company’s “Manage Your Account” online tools. Customers can turn service on or off, make payments, and sign up for eBill, for example. Other convenient online resources include:
- Energy Advisor, which helps businesses make operational and purchasing decisions and provides access to our energy experts and engineers.
- Energy Calculators, which assist our residential and commercial customers in finding valuable energy savings.
- Dominion Virginia Power’s Customer Care Business Service Center has about 100 employees trained specifically to engage with our business customers and provide solutions to their energy challenges, which range from service reliability to rate comparisons to payment options.
Social media, such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, now account for the highest percentage of online activities, according to market researcher E Source. Social media became mainstream customer communications tools at Dominion in 2010, and we are continuing to refine the use of this space to provide information that customers tell us they care about – things like energy-saving tips, our community involvement, environmental preservation initiatives and storm-related outage information.
Increasingly, we are using social media to engage with our customers to strengthen our relationships with them and get feedback about our services and their satisfaction level.
Dominion’s website again ranked in the top 10 utility sites in 2011, according to an industry benchmark study conducted by E Source. The study evaluated 100 U.S. and Canadian utility websites using mobile devices as well as desktop computers.
Even with today’s growing range of technology channels, many customers still prefer to use the telephone to communicate with us. Dominion Virginia Power receives about 7 million calls a year. Four million of them are handled by our Customer Care and Energy Management group. More than 3 million self-service transactions are completed through our interactive voice response systems. We also respond to about 68,000 customer emails each year.
The key performance measure we use to assess our level of customer call accessibility and responsiveness is “Average Speed of Answer,” or ASA – a recognized performance indicator in the national call center industry. Innovative voice response technologies and other online tools have enabled our gas and electric distribution companies to improve our ASA over time as we strive to balance the costs of offering rapid response with the accessibility that our customers desire.
At Dominion East Ohio and Dominion Hope (West Virginia), our natural gas distribution units, we measure ASA on an annual basis and have improved the average ASA by 32 percent since 2008, from 98 seconds to 67 seconds in 2011.
At Dominion Virginia Power, our electric distribution unit, we use a rolling three-year ASA to gauge trends in our levels of customer service, just as we do with our service reliability measures. From a 2003-2005 baseline, our ASA improved by 54 percent, from 73 seconds to 40 seconds during the 2009-2011 period.
In 2011, we placed special emphasis on our call response speed as it related to outage calls received during major storms:
- More than half of our Energy Management employees are now based at home with the equipment they need to respond to customer inquiries. This allows them to be accessible to customers at all times and eliminates the need to travel to work during major storms – a plus for safety and work/life balance. Customer service employees from other departments also have the means to assist with emergency call handling.
- We announced the opening of an additional new call center in South Boston, Va., similar to the one we launched the previous year in Martinsville, Va. Adding these two call centers will help us manage customer transactions more efficiently and deliver improved service to our customers.
Customer Satisfaction Benchmarks
Dominion improved its 2011 score by eight points in the annual J.D. Power and Associates Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study. We scored 644 on a 1,000-point scale compared to our 2010 score of 636. We also surpassed the 2011 national average of 628 for large and mid-sized utilities.
In the American Customer Satisfaction Index, we scored a 77 in 2011, up two points from 2010 and two points above the national utility average. For comparison purposes, the top-ranked company in our sector scored an 81 last year.
Our gas transmission pipeline business was ranked 2nd in customer value and satisfaction in its northeastern U.S. peer group, according to a 2011 study by consulting firm Mastio & Co. Nationwide, Dominion Transmission ranked 6th in customer value and 6th in customer satisfaction among pipeline companies with at least 3,500 miles of transmission pipeline and deliveries of at least 1 trillion cubic feet of gas.
We launched Dominion Green Power® in 2009 to give our Virginia customers a practical and economical way to voluntarily support the delivery of renewable energy to the regional power pool.
In 2011, we added nearly 5,000 new customers to the program, which has now surpassed 14,000 total participants.
We purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) on behalf of our Virginia customers who enroll in the Green Power program. These RECs may be purchased from wind, solar or biomass facilities, and the additional cost is added to the customer’s monthly electric bill. RECs purchased for the Dominion Green Power program are separate from and in addition to those purchased by the company to meet state Renewable Portfolio Standard requirements.
Dominion Green Power customers paid $.015 per kilowatt-hour for their support of renewable energy in 2011. That compares favorably to a national average of $.017 per kilowatt-hour for similar programs, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. As of January 2012, Dominion Green Power participants are paying even less – $.013 per kilowatt-hour.
Customers can participate in the Green Power Program in one of two ways:
- Purchase RECs equal to 100 percent of their monthly electrical usage for an additional 1.3 cents per kilowatt-hour; or
- Purchase RECs in any $2 fixed amount. Each $2 block purchased supports 154 kilowatt-hours of renewable energy.
For a typical residential customer, participation in the 100 percent option for one year can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 8.5 tons – the equivalent of taking a car off the road for 19 months.
Other program highlights in 2011 include:
- The introduction of Virginia-based solar and biomass RECs, resulting in 25 percent of total 2011 program RECs originating in Virginia.
- The launch of a mobile phone-based enrollment option – one of the first green pricing programs in the nation to offer this convenience; and
- 1,500 hours of community outreach by the Dominion Green Power Team.
Our program is certified by Green-e®, the nation’s leading independent consumer protection program for renewable energy sales.
For our 115,000 customers in North Carolina, we support the NC GreenPower initiative, which allows customers to add voluntary tax-deductible contributions to their electric bills. These funds are used to promote renewable energy development in the state.
Conservation/Energy Efficiency Programs
In addition to the Green Power Program in Virginia, we are partnering with our customers in other ways to help them make informed choices and manage their energy use more efficiently, control costs and preserve environmental quality.
Dominion East Ohio
At Dominion East Ohio, we are investing $9.5 million a year in conservation and energy efficiency programs for our customers as part of a 2008 rate case settlement. Of that annual total, $6.5 million is targeted to home weatherization programs for qualified low-income customers administered by the Cleveland Housing Network.
We also created a DSM (demand-side management) Collaborative, comprised of Dominion East Ohio, the staff of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, consumer advocates and other interested stakeholders. Based on input from the DSM Collaborative, we are investing $3 million annually in a residential retrofit program called “Home Performance with Energy Star.”
We offer this program in partnership with GoodCents, an independent service provider. It features a home energy assessment performed by qualified auditors. A $50 assessment fee can be credited toward the cost of any recommended efficiency upgrades, including such things as furnace replacement, water heater insulation or replacement, attic and wall insulation, new thermostats, window replacement and instrumented air sealing.
Conservation efforts by Dominion East Ohio and our customers are having the intended effect. Average residential natural gas consumption has fallen to 96.9 million cubic feet per year, a 33 percent decline from 1973 levels.
Dominion Virginia Power
On the electric side of our business, we received regulatory approval in May 2012 to add a bundled package of four residential and three commercial programs for a five-year period to our existing conservation offerings. The new programs include the following:
-Home Energy Check-Up -Energy Audit
-Duct Testing & Sealing -Duct Testing & Sealing
-Heat Pump Tune-Up -Distributed Generation
-Heat Pump Upgrade
For these new programs, the monthly electric bill of a typical residential customer is expected to increase by about 34 cents.
Existing Residential Programs (also available in North Carolina)
- Home Energy Improvement. Eligible customers receive an energy audit, educational materials and installed energy-efficiency improvements for their home free of charge.
- Smart Cooling Rewards. Customers receive a cash incentive to allow Dominion to cycle their air conditioning system on and off during periods of peak demand.
Existing Commercial Programs
- HVAC Rewards. Customers who replace existing electric HVAC systems or install new ones with higher efficiency ratings receive a rebate from Dominion.
- Lighting Rewards. Customers who upgrade existing lighting systems or install new ones with more energy-efficient equipment receive a rebate from Dominion.
We also provide a number of web-based resources to help our customers reduce their energy costs and use, including: