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

Congratulations to the 2016 Residential Utility Most Trusted Brands from Cogent Report/Market Strategies! (Graphic: Business Wire)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--()--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

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.


Market Strategies International
Anne Denz, 617.715.7611

Release Summary

Cogent Reports reveals the Most Trusted Brands among electric and natural gas utilities.


Market Strategies International
Anne Denz, 617.715.7611