For the second year in a row, The Cleveland Division of Water ranks last of all Midwestern water utilities in a survey of customers. J.D. Power surveys the customers of the nation’s 88 largest water utilities.
The 2018 Water Utility Satisfaction Study asks customers questions about 33 attributes that cover six categories, including price, customer service and communication.
Cleveland Water received the lowest score of all water utilities in the Midwest with 658 points on a 1,000 point scale. Nationwide, four other utilities scored lower than Cleveland. By comparison, the highest-ranked Midwestern utilities scored 703.
Andrew Heath, senior director of utility practice with J.D. Power, says about 600 Cleveland Water customers filled out the survey.
Heath added that Cleveland scored near the national average in categories related to direct services, things like customer service and billing. In this case, billing is related to how clear and easy to understand the bills are.
Customers weren’t as satisfied with conservation, communication, and price, which gauges monthly cost and whether customers feel they are getting value for their money.
Cleveland Water came in below the national average for water reliability and quality. Heath attributes this to the fact that while departments work to meet EPA standards for water, that doesn’t always address how water looks and tastes. The survey found this was a common complaint among customers across the country.
When asked the one thing Cleveland could do to help improve customer service over the next year, Heath said, “They need to be better at letting customers know what’s going on. They need to be better at communicating.”
He said this is something utilities across the country are facing. The reason is the departments are focused on providing safe water, and they don’t necessarily think about the way water appears when it's coming out of the tap.
Here's a statement from Cleveland Water about the JD Power survey:
“At Cleveland Water, we continually work to provide a reliable supply of safe drinking water and quality customer service to the 1.4 million people who count on us at an affordable price.
The most recent JD Power report indicates our customer service satisfaction index score increased significantly – by 23 points – from 2017 to 2018. This increase is a reflection of the on-going improvements we have made. We are in the process of reviewing these findings in more detail. We recognize that there is still work that needs to be done, and we are continuing to invest in technology, training and our employees to ensure we are delivering best in class customer service.”
Jonathan Walsh has been investigating problems with Cleveland Water for years. Follow his investigative series, "Drowning in Dysfunction."