New Market Strategies International Research Pegs the Value for Utility Companies Building Trust with Customers at $8 Billion

52 Electric and Natural Gas Utilities Named Most Trusted Brands

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--()--Brand trust is critical for strengthening the overall relationships that utilities have with their customers. What’s more, there is a significant monetary value that can be linked directly to trust. These and other findings are contained in a new report from Cogent Reports™, a division of Market Strategies International, that measures customer engagement with electric and natural gas utilities.

The 2014 Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement study is based on a survey of 19,000 residential utility customers served by the 125 largest natural gas, electric and combination utilities in the United States. It is the first study for the utility industry to provide a holistic view of the complex relationship consumers have with their utility providers by including measurements for brand trust along with operational satisfaction and product experience.

In addition to the study, Cogent Reports released a list of the 52 utilities categorized as most trusted brands in each of 12 regional and industry segments. Florida Power & Light is the nation’s most trusted electric utility and receives the highest overall brand trust score (724 points out of a possible 1,000 points) of any utility. Oklahoma Natural Gas ranks first in trust among gas utilities nationally, while MidAmerican is the most trusted combination utility provider. Overall performance and tier structure vary by region and type of utility, with all companies named achieving a minimum threshold score of 650.

“By earning the trust of their customers, these companies are creating financial value in their brands,” said Chris Oberle, a senior vice president for Market Strategies and the lead author of the report. “While about 4 in 10 utilities in our survey are designated as Most Trusted Utility Brands, an even more select group of just 15 manage to achieve brand trust scores of at least 700 out of a possible score of 1,000.”

In a hypothetical utility switching exercise, the report showed that greater incentives would be required to induce a change among customers of utilities with high trust. “Based on these findings, we estimate the current goodwill value for scoring high on trust to be over $8 billion. This shows a significant financial benefit for the industry to focus on raising trust levels,” said Oberle.

The report also shows that customers of utilities with strong brand trust tend to enroll in more programs and are far more prone to making positive comments on social media and elsewhere about their provider. “The bottom line is, trust pays,” said Oberle. “By focusing on brand trust and getting it right, a utility can and will increase its franchise value.”

About the Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement study

Cogent Reports conducted a web-based quantitative survey among 19,000 residential electric and natural gas utility customers of the 125 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. Due to the opt-in nature of web panel-based research, this study does not yield a true random probability sample of the target population. As such, it is not possible to compute a margin of error or to statistically quantify the accuracy of projections. Market Strategies will supply the exact wording of all survey questions upon request.

Cogent Reports’ Brand Trust scores are developed by combining company ratings on 28 separate measures in six areas: concern for customers, company reputation, credibility, dedication, environmental performance, and community involvement. Trust factors are then combined with operational satisfaction and product experience measures to generate a single overall Engaged Customer Relationship measure for each utility.

125 US Utility Companies Covered in the Study

Electric     Gas     Combination
AEP Ohio (Midwest)     Alagasco (South)     Alliant Energy (Midwest)
Alabama Power (South)     Atmos Energy - Midwest (Midwest)     Ameren Illinois (Midwest)
Ameren Missouri (Midwest)     Atmos Energy - South (South)     Avista (West)
Appalachian Power (East)     Black Hills Energy (Midwest)     BGE (East)
APS (West)     Cascade Natural Gas (West)     ConEd (East)
Atlantic City Electric (East)     CenterPoint Energy - Midwest (Midwest)     Consumers Energy (Midwest)
Austin Energy (South)     CenterPoint Energy - South (South)     CPS Energy (South)
Central Maine Power (East)     Citizens Energy (Midwest)     Delmarva Power (East)
ComEd (Midwest)     Columbia Gas - East (East)     DTE Energy (Midwest)
Connecticut Light & Power (East)     Columbia Gas - South (South)     Duke Energy - Midwest (Midwest)
Dayton Power & Light (Midwest)     Columbia Gas of Ohio (Midwest)     Louisville Gas & Electric (South)
Dominion Virginia Power (South)     Elizabethtown Gas (East)     MidAmerican Energy (Midwest)
Duke Energy Florida (South)     Intermountain Gas Company (West)     MLGW (South)
Duke Energy Progress (South)     Kansas Gas Service (Midwest)     National Grid (East)
Duquesne Light (East)     Laclede Gas (Midwest)     NIPSCO (Midwest)
El Paso Electric (South)     Missouri Gas Energy (Midwest)     NorthWestern Energy (West)
Entergy (South)     National Fuel Gas (East)     NSTAR (East)
Florida Power & Light (South)     New Jersey Natural Gas (East)     NYSEG (East)
Georgia Power (South)     New Mexico Gas Company (West)     PECO Energy (East)
Gulf Power (South)     Nicor Gas (Midwest)     PG&E (West)
Idaho Power (West)     NW Natural (West)     PSE&G (East)
Indiana Michigan Power (Midwest)     Oklahoma Natural Gas (South)     Puget Sound Energy (West)
Indianapolis Power & Light (Midwest)     Peoples Gas (Midwest)     RG&E (East)
JEA (South)     Peoples Natural Gas (East)     SCE&G (South)
Jersey Central Power & Light (East)     Philadelphia Gas Works (East)     SDG&E (West)
KCP&L (Midwest)     Piedmont Natural Gas (South)     Vectren (Midwest)
Kentucky Utilities (South)     PSNC Energy (South)     We Energies (Midwest)
LA Dept of Water & Power (West)     Questar Gas (West)     Wisconsin Public Service (Midwest)
Met-Ed (East)     SEMCO Energy Gas Company (Midwest)     Xcel Energy - Midwest (Midwest)
Monongahela Power (East)     South Jersey Gas Company (East)     Xcel Energy - West (West)
Nashville Electric Service (South)     Southern California Gas Company (West)      
NV Energy (West)     Southwest Gas (West)      
OG&E (South)     TECO Peoples Gas (South)      
Ohio Edison (Midwest)     Texas Gas Service (South)      
OPPD (Midwest)     UGI Utilities (East)      
Pacific Power (West)     Virginia Natural Gas (South)      
Penelec (East)     Washington Gas (East)      
Pepco (East)            
PNM (West)            
Portland General Electric (West)            
Potomac Edison (East)            
PPL Electric Utilities (East)            
PSE&G Long Island (East)            
PSO (South)            
Public Service of New Hampshire (East)            
Rocky Mountain Power (West)            
Salt River Project (West)            
Seattle City Light (West)            
SMUD (West)            
Southern California Edison (West)            
SWEPCO (South)            
TECO Tampa Electric (South)            
Duke Energy Carolinas (South)            
The Illuminating Company (Midwest)            
Tucson Electric Power (West)            
West Penn Power (East)            
Westar Energy (Midwest)            
Xcel Energy - South (South)            
       

About Market Strategies International

Market Strategies International is the largest energy research company in the nation and a market research consultancy with deep expertise in consumer/retail, energy, financial services, healthcare, technology and telecommunications. The firm is ISO 20252 certified, reflecting its commitment to providing intelligent research, designed to the highest levels of accuracy, with meaningful results that help companies make confident business decisions.

Market Strategies conducts qualitative and quantitative research in 75 countries, and its specialties include brand, communications, CX, product development, segmentation and syndicated. Its syndicated products, known as Cogent Reports, help clients understand the market environment, explore industry trends and monitor their brand and products within the competitive landscape. Founded in 1989, Market Strategies is one of the largest market research firms in the world, with offices in the US, Canada and China. Read Market Strategies’ blog at FreshMR, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Contacts

Market Strategies International
Anne Fallon, 617.715.7611
anne.fallon@marketstrategies.com

Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement Study: Top Tier Brand Trust (Graphic: Business Wire)

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Release Summary

For the first time, a national utility consumer survey measures not only satisfaction and product experience, but also consumers' trust in their utility and ranks the 52 most trusted brands in the US.

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Contacts

Market Strategies International
Anne Fallon, 617.715.7611
anne.fallon@marketstrategies.com