Market Strategies International

News

Cogent Reports: Low Brand Trust Leaves Utility Industry Unprepared for Future

Only 1 in 3 electric and natural gas utilities is ranked as a Most Trusted Brand

Brand trust levels among residential customers of the nation’s electric and natural gas utilities continue to be very low with an average score of 693 (on a 1,000-point scale)—a small eight-point increase from last year. Consequently, a whopping 39% of customers indicate they would leave their utility if given the opportunity. With the need to influence customers to adopt industry innovation and offerings, it is time for the utility industry to start focusing on establishing higher levels of brand trust—otherwise, utilities risk losing control of their business model. These findings are from Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential, a Cogent Reports™ study by Market Strategies International.
 

In stark contrast, industry Operational Satisfaction scored 763—70 points higher than Brand Trust. Operational Satisfaction has long been the focus for utilities and, as a result, we have an industry of well-oiled utilities that many consumers don’t trust.

What Is Keeping Trust Low?

Market Strategies developed the Brand Trust Index by surveying customers on six factors that score emotional attachment and management performance. And while utilities tend to blame Millennials’ digital service expectations for their low performance, it is actually Generation Xers and Late Boomers who lack trust.

 Generation and Age  Brand Trust Index
 Generation Xers  677
 Late Boomers  688
 Millennials  698
 Early Boomers  706
 Silent Generation  734
 
 

“We consistently hear from utility management that they have improved their operations and launched new offerings but cannot move the needle on customer appreciation or adoption,” said Chris Oberle, senior vice president at Market Strategies. “Without building trusted relationships across all customer segments, utilities will not likely meet their new challenges and mandates.”

The utility business model has become more retail-focused and encourages the use of innovative products, programs and pricing structures. But only trusted brands can influence customer purchase decisions. Moreover, 93% of customers do not think their utility presents a consistent brand image, only 14% of customers value a utility endorsement of an energy-related product and only 18% trust their utility to keep their personal information safe.

“Becoming a trusted adviser is now the most important focus area to create engaged utility customers,” continued Oberle. “Our study shows that customer relationships are being redefined. Customers expect utilities to keep service flowing and answer their phones but also want them to provide additional value. Utilities that don’t answer that call will be left behind.”

On a positive note, more utilities have increased Brand Trust this year (77 utilities) than decreased (48 utilities), indicating progress.

After conducting more than 50,000 utility customer surveys, Cogent Reports reveals the Most Trusted Brands among electric and natural gas utilities below. Members of this group represent best practices in positioning themselves as trusted advisers. This year, 21 utilities are new to this list and 18 utilities have fallen off.

2016 Utility Most Trusted Brands in alphabetical order: Alagasco, Atmos Energy – Midwest, Cascade Natural Gas, CenterPoint Energy – South, Central Maine Power, Citizens Energy, Columbia Gas – South, Columbia Gas of Ohio, Entergy, Florida Power & Light, Georgia Power, Indiana Michigan Power, Indianapolis Power & Light, Kentucky Utilities, Louisville Gas & Electric, MidAmerican Energy, Nashville Electric Service, National Fuel Gas, New Jersey Natural Gas, NIPSCO, NW Natural, NYSEG, OPPD, Pacific Power, PECO Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, Portland General Electric, PPL Electric Utilities, PSE&G, PSNC Energy, Puget Sound Energy, Questar Gas, Salt River Project, SCE&G, SDG&E, Seattle City Light, SEMCO Energy Gas Company, SMUD, South Jersey Gas Company, Southwest Gas, TECO Peoples Gas, Texas Gas Service, Virginia Natural Gas.

Additionally, below is a list of utilities not designated as a Most Trusted Brand and the Brand Trust factor with the greatest opportunity to improve.

Surveyed Brands Utility Type Primary Management Improvement Factor
AEP Kentucky Power
Electric
Community Support
AEP Ohio
Electric
Customer Focus
Alabama Power
Electric
Environmental Dedication
Ameren Missouri
Electric
Customer Focus
Appalachian Power Electric
Customer Focus
APS
Electric
Company Reputation & Advocacy
Atlantic City Electric
Electric
Community Support
Austin Energy
Electric
Communications Effectiveness
ComEd
Electric
Company Reputation & Advocacy
Dayton Power & Light
Electric
Communications Effectiveness
Dominion Virginia Power
Electric
Customer Focus
Duke Energy Carolinas
Electric
Company Reputation & Advocacy
Duke Energy Florida
Electric
Customer Focus
Duke Energy Progress
Electric
Company Reputation & Advocacy
Duquesne Light
Electric
Environmental Dedication
El Paso Electric
Electric
Reliable Quality
Gulf Power
Electric
Environmental Dedication
Hawaiian Electric
Electric
Customer Focus
Idaho Power
Electric
Company Reputation & Advocacy
JEA
Electric
Company Reputation & Advocacy
Jersey Central Power & Light
Electric
Reliable Quality
KCP&L
Electric
Customer Focus
Los Angeles Department of Water & Power Electric
Company Reputation & Advocacy
Met-Ed
Electric
Company Reputation & Advocacy
Mississippi Power
Electric
Company Reputation & Advocacy
Monongahela Power
Electric
Environmental Dedication
NV Energy
Electric
Customer Focus
OG&E
Electric
Community Support
Ohio Edison
Electric
Community Support
Penelec
Electric
Community Support
Penn Power
Electric
Environmental Dedication
Pepco
Electric
Customer Focus
PNM
Electric
Customer Focus
Potomac Edison
Electric
Environmental Dedication
PSEG Long Island
Electric
Company Reputation & Advocacy
PSO
Electric
Community Support
Rocky Mountain Power
Electric
Reliable Quality
Southern California Edison
Electric
Reliable Quality
SWEPCO
Electric
Environmental Dedication
TECO Tampa Electric
Electric
Communications Effectiveness
The Illuminating Company
Electric
Environmental Dedication
Toledo Edison
Electric
Company Reputation & Advocacy
Tucson Electric Power
Electric
Communications Effectiveness
West Penn Power
Electric
Community Support
Westar Energy
Electric
Customer Focus
Xcel Energy - South
Electric
Communications Effectiveness
Atmos Energy - South
Natural Gas
Community Support
Black Hills Energy
Natural Gas
Communications Effectiveness
CenterPoint Energy - Midwest
Natural Gas
Community Support
Columbia Gas - East
Natural Gas
Community Support
Dominion East Ohio
Natural Gas
Community Support
Elizabethtown Gas
Natural Gas
Community Support
Intermountain Gas Company
Natural Gas
Environmental Dedication
Kansas Gas Service
Natural Gas
Environmental Dedication
Laclede Gas
Natural Gas
Customer Focus
Missouri Gas Energy
Natural Gas
Community Support
New Mexico Gas Company
Natural Gas
Communications Effectiveness
Nicor Gas
Natural Gas
Community Support
Oklahoma Natural Gas
Natural Gas
Community Support
Peoples Gas
Natural Gas
Communications Effectiveness
Peoples Natural Gas
Natural Gas Community Support
Philadelphia Gas Works
Natural Gas
Company Reputation & Advocacy
SoCalGas
Natural Gas
Reliable Quality
UGI Utilities
Natural Gas
Community Support
Washington Gas
Natural Gas
Reliable Quality
Alliant Energy
Combination
Communications Effectiveness
Ameren Illinois
Combination
Communications Effectiveness
Avista
Combination
Customer Focus
BGE
Combination
Company Reputation & Advocacy
ConEd
Combination
Customer Focus
Consumers Energy
Combination
Customer Focus
CPS Energy Combination
Company Reputation & Advocacy
Delmarva Power
Combination
Customer Focus
DTE Energy
Combination
Communications Effectiveness
Duke Energy Midwest
Combination
Customer Focus
Eversource
Combination
Company Reputation & Advocacy
MLGW
Combination
Customer Focus
National Grid
Combination
Company Reputation & Advocacy
NorthWestern Energy
Combination
Environmental Dedication
PG&E
Combination
Company Reputation & Advocacy
RG&E
Combination
Company Reputation & Advocacy
Vectren
Combination
Community Support
We Energies
Combination
Community Support
Wisconsin Public Service
Combination
Community Support
Xcel Energy - Midwest
Combination
Community Support
Xcel Energy - West
Combination
Reliable Quality

About the Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement: Residential report

Cogent Reports conducted surveys among 54,693 residential electric, natural gas and combination utility customers of the 129 largest US utility companies (based on residential customer counts). The sample design uses US census data and strict quotas to ensure a demographically balanced sample of each evaluated utility’s customers based on age, gender, income, race and ethnicity. Utilities within the same region and of the same type (e.g., electric-only providers) are given equal weight in order to balance the influence of each utility’s customers on survey results. Market Strategies will supply the exact wording of any survey questions upon request.

 

Click below to see a full listing of the 2016 Residential Most Trusted Brand Scores.

2016 Residential Most Trusted Brand Scores

< Back to News