CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--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|
“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|
|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|
|Ohio Edison||Electric||Community Support|
|Penn Power||Electric||Environmental Dedication|
|Potomac Edison||Electric||Environmental Dedication|
|PSEG Long Island||Electric||Company Reputation & Advocacy|
|Rocky Mountain Power||Electric||Reliable Quality|
|Southern California Edison||Electric||Reliable Quality|
|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|
|BGE||Combination||Company Reputation & Advocacy|
|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|
|National Grid||Combination||Company Reputation & Advocacy|
|NorthWestern Energy||Combination||Environmental Dedication|
|PG&E||Combination||Company Reputation & Advocacy|
|RG&E||Combination||Company Reputation & Advocacy|
|We Energies||Combination||Community Support|
|Wisconsin Public Service||Combination||Community Support|
|Xcel Energy - Midwest||Combination||Community Support|
|Xcel Energy - West||Combination||Reliable Quality|
Source: Market Strategies International. Cogent Reports™. Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential: June 2016.
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.
About Market Strategies International
Market Strategies International is 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.