Customers Don’t Trust Utilities to Deliver Safety, Security, Offerings or Innovation
Customers are satisfied with electric and natural gas utility service but don’t trust their advice or digital competency. Consumers also doubt the industry’s ability to keep transmission systems or personal information secure. These findings are from 2016 Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential, a Cogent Reports™ study from Market Strategies International. Completing its third year, the study benchmarks and trends 130 utilities using an Engaged Customer Relationship (ECR) tracking index, which is composed of Brand Trust, Product Experience and Operational Satisfaction measures. The ECR index increased five points this year with 46 utility brands being named Customer Champions.
“Consumers now want great brand and product experiences above quality service. Our research shows that operational satisfaction is declining in importance while product experience is increasing,” said Chris Oberle, senior vice president, Market Strategies International. “Customers say utilities are digital dinosaurs which creates a real problem for an industry whose future relies on innovation and offerings.The overall market perception is utilities keep service flowing but aren’t good product providers and can’t be trusted to keep customers safe and secure.”
The impacts of these negative consumer perceptions are already being felt by the industry. While utility Operational Satisfaction scores a high 764 (on a 1,000-point scale), Brand Trust scores a low 693. This lack of trust has resulted in low customer engagement with utility offerings, like energy efficiency, online tools, distributed energy, solar and new rate structures.
“Utilities would benefit greatly from developing customer management plans focused on specific customer types. Our study tracks 12 customer segments, including ‘Digital Types’ and ‘Consumption Managers,’ to help improve customer interactions and relationships,” added Oberle.
Selected Customer Engagement Perspectives
% Customer Agreement
Utility can keep grids and pipelines safe from terrorist or cyber attacks
Utility is a leader on innovation
Trust utility to keep personal information safe
Want to use utility’s online tools to manage energy consumption
There is a 181-point difference between the highest and lowest scoring utilities on ECR. The study finds that 46 utilities have established the industry’s strongest ECR scores and are designated 2016 Customer Champions.These utilities are mastering customer engagement and, as a result, have much greater franchise values. Individual utility scoring performances can be obtained at 2016 Cogent Reports Utility Customer Relationship Scoring - Full List.
2016 Utility Customer Champions*
Combination Service Utilities
Natural Gas Utilities
Louisville Gas & Electric
Puget Sound Energy
Central Maine Power
Florida Power & Light
Indiana Michigan Power
Indianapolis Power & Light
Nashville Electric Service
Portland General Electric
PPL Electric Utilities
Salt River Project
Cascade Natural Gas
Columbia Gas of Ohio
National Fuel Gas
New Jersey Natural Gas
Oklahoma Natural Gas
Piedmont Natural Gas
SEMCO Energy Gas Company
TECO Peoples Gas
Texas Gas Service
Virginia Natural Gas
About Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement: Residential
Cogent Reports conducted surveys among 58,433 residential electric, natural gas and combination utility customers of the 130 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 to balance the influence of each utility’s customers on survey results. Market Strategies will supply the exact wording of any survey question upon request.