PEORIA — Ameren Illinois, the main electric utility company for downstate Illinois, again finished below the national average in a ranking of customer satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates.
The Peoria-based utility, which serves the Champaign-Urbana and Danville areas, ranked 97th of the 126 largest electric utility companies in the country.
Residential customer satisfaction with electric utilities nationally averages 625 on a 1,000-point scale. Ameren Illinois' score was 608. Among large Midwestern utilities, only Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison had a lower score, 579.
St. Louis-based Ameren Missouri had a score of 611. The average score for a large Midwestern utility was 617.
This year's Ameren Illinois rating is an improvement. Last year it scored 598, placing it 106th of 124 electric utilities.
And Ameren Illinois spokesman Leigh Morris said the utility's customer-satisfaction survey results are more positive and have steadily improved since 2007.
"We measure customer satisfaction with our call centers — it's called the Customer Contact Index — and we've shown steady improvements since 2007," he said. "That was a low point. The company faced great financial challenges. We've focused on restoring customer confidence through performance, not through words."
In 2007, Morris said, just 68 percent of customers gave the company a score of 9 or 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. Last year, 83 percent did so, he said, and so far this year, 84 percent did so.
"The CCI is a measure of customers who had a contact with customer service, measuring their response to the contact," Morris said.
A separate rating — the Field Operations Customer Survey, which measures customer satisfaction with field work such as upgrades, new connections and response to gas leaks — was 85 last year and is 87 so far this year, he said.
"We think these are very important measurements. If you just did an at-random survey, you may be talking to people who never had a contact, or it's been 10 years since they had a contact. We feel this is a very valid way of measuring our performance," Morris said.
The J.D. Power survey is broader, and measures different factors including power quality and reliability, price, billing and payment, corporate citizenship, communications and customer service.
Ameren Illinois' rankings in the J.D. Power survey have been below the national and Midwestern averages since 2006. Prior to that it was above the Midwestern average. Its worst years were 2008 and 2010, when it was the lowest-rated large Midwestern electric utility.
The highest-rated large Midwestern utility this year is MidAmerican Energy, based in Des Moines, Iowa, with a score of 666. The highest-rated midsize Midwestern electric utility is Omaha Public Power District with a score of 677.
The highest-rated large electric utility in the country is SRP in Arizona, which got a rating of 700. The overall highest-rated electric utility in the country is NOVEC, the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative, with a rating of 714.