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

Customers Don’t Trust Utilities to Deliver Safety, Security, Offerings or Innovation

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--()--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   10%
Utility is a leader on innovation 21%
Trust utility to keep personal information safe 37%
Want to use utility’s online tools to manage energy consumption   6%

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 Central Maine Power Alagasco
Louisville Gas & Electric ComEd Atmos Energy-Midwest
MidAmerican Energy Entergy Cascade Natural Gas
NIPSCO Florida Power & Light CenterPoint Energy-Midwest
NYSEG Georgia Power CenterPoint Energy-South
PSE&G Indiana Michigan Power Columbia Gas-South
Puget Sound Energy Indianapolis Power & Light Columbia Gas of Ohio
SCE&G Kentucky Utilities National Fuel Gas
SDG&E Nashville Electric Service New Jersey Natural Gas
Vectren OG&E NW Natural
Xcel Energy-West Pacific Power Oklahoma Natural Gas
Portland General Electric Piedmont Natural Gas
PPL Electric Utilities PSNC Energy
Salt River Project Questar Gas
SWEPCO 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.

About Market Strategies International

Market Strategies International is a leading provider of research and consulting services to utility management. We blend primary research with data from our syndicated, benchmarking and self-funded studies as well as Big Data to help our clients grow their businesses and brands. Market Strategies’ research specialties include brand, communications, CX, product development and segmentation. Our syndicated products, known as Cogent Reports, are the energy sector’s industry-leading source and diagnostic tool designed to transform how clients can maximize revenue potential, and identify issues and topics that will shape their business models and the future direction of the industry.

Founded in 1989, Market Strategies is one of the largest market research firms in the world, with offices in the US, Canada and China and additional industry expertise in consumer & retail, financial services, healthcare, technology and telecommunications. Read Market Strategies’ blog at FreshMR, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


Market Strategies International
Lisa Viselli, 734.779.6851
Sarah Keller, 617.715.7612

Release Summary

Customers are satisfied with electric and natural gas utility service but don’t trust their advice or digital competency.



Market Strategies International
Lisa Viselli, 734.779.6851
Sarah Keller, 617.715.7612