The recent massive ransomware attack struck industries across the globe and exposed worrisome weaknesses in the computer defenses of even the most sophisticated international corporations. While there are no reports to date of utilities being struck by the WannaCry virus, consumers’ confidence in the ability of any organization to keep its system safe has been badly shaken.
Cybersecurity has long been on utility officials’ mind: The sniper attack at an electric substation and a holiday cyber-attack scare on an electric utility are a couple of events that keep cybersecurity on the forefront. So, the WannaCry incident serves not so much as a wake-up call as it is a confirmation of the urgency of guarding against cyber threats. But it’s also an opportunity to communicate with customers about what you are doing to protect against and prepare for such an attack.
Our research shows that for the most part, customers have little confidence in their utility’s cybersecurity efforts. In Cogent Reports’ Utility Trust Brand & Customer Engagement study, a whopping 90% of respondents do not agree that their utility keeps its system safe from terrorist or cyber threats. About 60% do not trust their utility to keep their personal information safe.
However, our research also shows that when utility customers do think their utility is doing the right thing in preparing for these types of events, their Brand Trust level increases dramatically. The 10% who believe their utility is working to keep its system safe from terrorist or cyber attacks have a Brand Trust level 90 points higher than other customers’. For the 39% who think their utility can keep their personal information safe, the Brand Trust bump is 58 points.
In addition, letting customers know about your cybersecurity preparations positively influences their perceptions of the utility on innovation—a brand trait that many utilities are seeking to build. When customers agree that their utility is prepared for cyber or terrorist attacks, the perception of being “a leader on innovation” increases from 21% to 31%.
In Utility Dive’s survey results published last March, utility professionals named cybersecurity as the most important current issue facing their company. Just one day before the attack, President Trump issued an executive order that called for Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to assess power grid cybersecurity and related issues.
The primary challenge is to stay one step ahead of cyber attacks, but it’s also important to let customers know that you are dedicated to system safety and security. And nowadays, that means cybersecurity as well.
Are you in charge of customer engagement and satisfaction at a utility? Review an overview of the Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement: Residential report. With this report we can help you establish the right strategies to build a solid foundation of trust.