SOURCE: NW Natural

NW Natural

March 24, 2010 10:00 ET

NW Natural Ranks Highest in the West

Gas Company Increases Satisfaction; Helps Business Customers in Need

PORTLAND, OR--(Marketwire - March 24, 2010) -  NW Natural (NYSE: NWN), the Portland, Oregon-based natural gas utility, ranked highest in the West region in the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 Gas Utility Business Customer Satisfaction StudySM.

Now in its fifth year, the study measures business customer satisfaction with their gas utility company in four regions: East, Midwest, South and West. Satisfaction is measured by examining six factors: billing and payment; corporate citizenship; price; communications; customer service; and field service.

Gas utility companies that provide payment assistance to business customers who request it achieve a substantial lift in overall satisfaction, particularly when contact is initiated by the utility company, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 Gas Utility Business Customer Satisfaction StudySM.

"NW Natural has been serving the Northwest for more than 150 years," said Gregg Kantor, President and CEO, NW Natural. "So when our neighbors and business partners are struggling, we feel it too. Taking an active role in providing bill payment assistance and flexible payment plans are a few ways we can help our business customers manage through these tough economic conditions."

According to J.D. Power and Associates, nationally, approximately one-third of business customers report that the financial status of their company is worse in 2010 compared with 2009, and 13 percent of customers report having contact with their utility company regarding an overdue payment balance in 2010. Gas utilities that take an active role in assisting these customers with their payments have the opportunity to raise satisfaction levels well above those of customers who don't have problems paying their bills.

The study findings also include the following key trends nationally:

  • Awareness among business customers of their utility's energy-savings programs has increased from 31 percent in 2009 to 40 percent in 2010. When customers are aware of these programs, satisfaction with price is 113 points higher, on average, compared with customers who are not aware.
  • More than one-half (55%) of business customers agree that natural gas is a more environmentally friendly fuel than electricity. Fewer than 20 percent of customers do not agree with this statement, while 26 percent are undecided.
  • Providing specialized and personalized customer service is particularly satisfying to business customers. Those customers who have a dedicated account manager at their gas utility are notably more satisfied (732, on average) than customers whose main contact is a general service center (592, on average).

The Gas Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study is based on online interviews with representatives from more than 8,300 U.S. businesses whose monthly natural gas bills are between $200 and $50,000. More than 55 natural gas utilities are included in the study which was fielded from June to July 2009 and October to December of the same year.

About NW Natural
NW Natural is headquartered in Portland, Ore., and serves more than 667,000 residential and business customers in Oregon and Southwest Washington. It is the largest independent natural gas utility in the Pacific Northwest. For more information about NW Natural, please visit www.nwnatural.com

About J.D. Power and Associates
Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services company operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, performance improvement, Web intelligence and customer satisfaction. The company's quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. For more information on car reviews and ratings, car insurance, health insurance, cell phone ratings, and more, please visit JDPower.com. J.D. Power and Associates is a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies.

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