Between the lines: Customer survey

Dawson Public Power District General Manager Gwen Kautz.

Dawson Public Power District General Manager Gwen Kautz.

By Gwen Kautz, General Manager
gkautz at

Dawson PPD recently completed a survey of customers regarding service, reliability, rates and a variety of other things. We do these surveys every three to four years. The survey data was collected through the telephone and online from about 500 customers, making the statistical sample valid.

The first note in the survey summary says we have an overall satisfaction rating of 8.95 (out of a possible 10). Our good number is like previous surveys, but higher than the rural systems nationally.

The strongest driver for this rating lies in our customer service and that our employees met or exceeded their expectations during that contact. The second key driver of overall satisfaction was rates and efficiency. Again, the Dawson PPD rankings are higher than national rural systems overall.

There was one recurring negative in the survey amongst dissatisfied customer responses — the monthly distribution charge. It seems our explanation and/or justification has not been adequate.

Let me start by asking you to look at your cell phone bill. The company is calling their fixed recovery component a “line access fee,” followed by a breakout of each cell phone service on your statement. Your “monthly access charge” is your plan choice (like unlimited data). They follow this up with surcharges, taxes and government fees. People who still have landlines will see “access charges” or “customer subscriber line charge.” After that, you may see a single bill fee, a minimum monthly charge or monthly calling plan charge as part of the statement. Regardless of the configuration, the phone companies are recovering all of their costs.

A natural gas bill will break out your usage by BTU (a measurement of gas) but call it a “gas supply” charge (how much you use) followed by a “delivery charge” and again, fees or taxes collected on the sale.

Dawson PPD’s distribution charge is like a “line access fee;” “gas delivery charge;” “subscriber charge” or “minimum monthly charge.” Like your other utility providers, we are recovering the cost it takes to supply electricity to your meter.

If you see a “lease payment” fee on your electric bill, those are dollars we collect on behalf of your village or town. We send village and towns that payment on a quarterly or bi-annual basis.

When we moved to a monthly distribution fee, we reduced the kilowatt hour rate and removed the declining block rates. We learned that the block rates made it more difficult for our customers to understand their bill statement. Originally, customers were charged 21 cents per kilowatt hour for the first 100 kWh they used.

Based on our cost-of-service studies, the distribution charge has increased steadily to move us toward a full recovery of fixed costs. By 2028, we are anticipating that your distribution charge could be $37/month. Predicting expenses associated with providing a service is an assumption game. If fuel sources go up, if material goes up, if regulations cause costly changes, that $37 distribution charge is still an estimate.

We hope that our transparent approach in how we do business, along with our strong customer service, has met your satisfaction. The survey results show that you appreciate us just as much as we appreciate you. That’s a good partnership! At all times, we are accountable to you, our owner. To those who took a few minutes out of your busy day to answer the survey, we say thank you!


April 2019

What our customers say

An informed customer is our greatest asset.