City Utility Earns Its Top Grade

GRAND HAVEN — Customers of the Grand Haven Board of Light and Power (GHBLP) have given the municipal utility the highest marks ever in a biannual survey that measures satisfaction and performance.

A combined 99 percent of the respondents to the survey rated the BLP’s service as “excellent” or “good.” None of the responses from residential and commercial customers gave the BLP a “poor” rating, and a handful gave the BLP a “fair” score.

The results are the best ever in the nearly three years the Grand Haven BLP has conducted the survey. Administrative Services Manager Jon Hoffman said past surveys have produced similarly high marks for the utility, although never quite as high as the latest survey.

“Being a community-owned utility, our focus is on our customers and we believe the results are a reflection customers believe we are doing the job right,” Hoffman said.

The GHBLP has more than 12,700 residential, commercial and industrial electric customers in northwestern Ottawa County. The biannual, random telephone surveys are part of a three-year effort to better gauge customers’ views about the utility’s performance and the market demand for new services.

Based on past survey results, the BLP is weighing whether to begin offering retail services such as appliance warranties and selling surge protectors, Hoffman said.

Respondents to the latest survey rated the BLP highly across several performance categories. Among the questions asked was whether customers, if given a choice of switching to another electricity supplier, would stay with the BLP.

A combined 88 percent indicated they probably would, with 77 percent “very likely” to stay and 11 percent “somewhat likely.” Eleven percent were unsure whether they would switch to another electric utility and just 1 percent said they were “not likely” to stay with the BLP if given the option.

A 2000 state law deregulating the electric industry in Michigan gives municipal utilities until Dec. 31, 2007 to decide whether to open up their exclusive service territories to competition. Coaxing them to participate in a competitive market is a provision in the law that will enable customers outside of the city boundaries where a municipal utility is based to choose their electric supplier as of 2008.

The high number of customers indicating they would stay with the BLP is as heartening to administrators as the overall performance rating, Hoffman said.

“It’s one thing for them to say they rate our service excellent or good. It’s another thing for them to say they would stick with us if they had a choice,” he said.

In the services area, a collective 27 percent of respondents indicated they are “somewhat” or “very” likely to subscribe to a green power program at an additional cost. The survey also found some interest among customers for accessing account information, paying electric bills, and applying for or disconnecting service via the Internet.

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