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Customers give EWEB higher grades.

Byline: Scott Maben The Register-Guard

Customers still want the Eugene Water & Electric Board to do a better job controlling costs, a recent survey for the utility shows. But generally, EWEB's marks have improved over the past year.

In the view of 400 customers interviewed in early January, EWEB did better in overall performance and customer satisfaction when compared with survey results from a year ago.

The ratings, however, were higher in January 2001, before the first in a series of rate increases.

"We've regained a lot of the lost ground in the eyes of customers since the big rate increase in October 2001," EWEB spokesman Lance Robertson said.

One of EWEB's lowest scores was for efforts to control costs.

One in five customers said the utility isn't doing a good job in this area. Two in five, however, said EWEB is doing well - a marked improvement from a year ago, when customers were reacting to a rate increase that averaged 33 percent for residential and commercial accounts.

"Customers always have been concerned about controlling costs," Robertson said. "Even prior to the rate increases it was not an area where a high percentage had given us good to excellent rating."

In a separate part of the survey, customers downplayed cost control when asked what was most important to them.

In fact, it ranked below electric service reliability, water quality, responsiveness to customers, keeping customers informed, concern for the environment and energy conservation programs.

In a new set of questions for the annual benchmark survey, customers were asked what factors they think contributed to electric rate increases over the past two years.

The most popular answers were market manipulation by energy companies such as Enron and deregulation of the energy market.

Others blamed the California energy crisis, the federal Bonneville Power Administration and drought.

"EWEB management decisions" was cited least often as a cause of rising rates.

"It seems like they have a fairly high understanding that these markets are complex and there are many things that can contribute to rate increases," Robertson said.

Most customers - 65 percent - expect electricity rates will increase further.

Only 6 percent thought they'd go down.

Lindholm Research LLC of Eugene supervised the Jan. 7-9 telephone survey of EWEB customers.

Respondents were picked randomly from a recent list of registered voters.

The margin of error is 5 percentage points.


Here's what Eugene Water & Electric Board customers said in the utility's annual benchmark survey:

Value of EWEB service: 68 percent said good or superior value, up from 61 percent in 2002 but down from 72 percent in 2001.

Overall satisfaction of service: Based on last contact with EWEB, 72 percent were satisfied or very satisfied, up from 70 percent in 2002 but down from 77 percent in 2001.

Cost control performance: 40 percent rated it good or excellent, up from 30 percent in 2002 but down from 44 percent in 2001.

Responsiveness to customers: 68 percent rated it good or excellent, up from 58 percent in 2002 but down from 70 percent in 2001.
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Title Annotation:Poll respondents say the utility is doing a better job than last year but still needs to rein in costs; Utilities
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 19, 2003
Previous Article:OBITUARIES.
Next Article:HEAVY DUTY.

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