Market Strategies International


Utilities Post All-Time High Customer Satisfaction but Lack Customer Trust

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


Electric Utilities


Natural Gas Utilities

DTE Energy

Louisville Gas & Electric

MidAmerican Energy




Puget Sound Energy




Xcel Energy-West


Central Maine Power



Florida Power & Light

Georgia Power

Indiana Michigan Power

Indianapolis Power & Light

Kentucky Utilities

Nashville Electric Service


Pacific Power

Portland General Electric

PPL Electric Utilities

Salt River Project




Atmos Energy-Midwest

Cascade Natural Gas

CenterPoint Energy-Midwest

CenterPoint Energy-South

Columbia Gas-South

Columbia Gas of Ohio

National Fuel Gas

New Jersey Natural Gas

NW Natural

Oklahoma Natural Gas

Piedmont Natural Gas

PSNC Energy

Questar Gas

SEMCO Energy Gas Company


Southwest Gas

TECO Peoples Gas

Texas Gas Service

Virginia Natural Gas

* Customer Champions were selected based on achieving a top quartile industry, top two benchmark segment score or being within 20 points of the top regional score on the Cogent Engaged Customer Relationships index (ECR).

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.

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