Customer support for electric utilities is based on trust

This annual study highlights a statistical relationship between brand trust and rate support, and shows customers expect utilities to expand support for new offerings and community outreach as a result of rate increases

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Support of utility rates and attracting consumer use of alternative energy offerings requires brand trust among residential electric and natural gas utility consumers, according to a new Cogent Reports study by Market Strategies International.

This annual study highlights a statistical relationship between brand trust and rate support, and shows customers expect utilities to expand support for new offerings and community outreach as a result of rate increases.

The study’s findings, which designates 44 utilities as “Most Trusted Brands,” can be found in the 2017 Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement: Residential study.

“Building a brand that customers trust and offering products and services customers will use are the new utility challenges. Brand trust is truly the difference between customers supporting or resisting new utility income opportunities,” said Chris Oberle, senior vice president at Market Strategies International.

High brand trust scores are required to attract customer use of alternative energy offerings and to increase the preference to use utilities as providers of these products. Additionally, customers who trust their utility are twice as likely to recommend those alternative energy products to other customers.

“Our research clearly shows utility brand trust levels are closely tied to financial success, customer advocacy and market support for rate changes,” continued Oberle. “High brand trust benefits customers, shareholders and stakeholders, and positions utilities as credible players in shaping the evolving utility market.”

The study’s brand trust index has declined by one point this year to 692 (on a 1,000-point scale). The study, now in its fourth year, benchmarks brand performance of 130 utilities on a quarterly basis among 59,823 utility consumers. The brand trust index is based upon 35 rating questions that relate to a suite of emotional attachment and management performance factors.

This year, Cogent has designated 44 utilities as 2017 Most Trusted Brands. This group of utilities scores 40 points higher on brand trust than their industry peers. As a result of the brand trust garnered among customers, Most Trusted Brand utilities experience a 7 percent improvement in support for rate increases and a 27 percent boost in positive customer comments than industry peers. Additionally, Most Trusted Brands are viewed by customers as better stock investments.

The following four tables show benchmark scoring among the utilities surveyed. A score above 500 indicates positive level of brand trust.

East Region

NYSEG: 713

RG&E: 710

PSE&G: 698

BGE: 692

Delmarva Power: 683

National Grid: 683

PECO Energy: 674

Con Edison: 672

Eversource: 637

PPL Electric Utilities: 718

Duquesne Light Co.: 700

Central Maine Power: 687

West Penn Power: 681

Penn Power: 679

Penelec: 673

Met-Ed: 653

Potomac Edison: 650

Appalachian Power: 649

PSEG Long Island: 645

Atlantic City: 644

Monongahela Power: 625

Pepco: 614

Jersey Central Power & Light: 602

New Jersey Natural Gas: 724

National Fuel Gas: 722

Peoples: 715

UGI Utilities: 709

Washington Gas: 709

Philadelphia Gas Works: 708

Columbia Gas – East: 700

South Jersey Gas Co.: 699

Elizabethtown Gas: 682

Midwest Region

MidAmerican Energy: 730

Consumers Energy: 708

Ameren Illinois: 706

DTE Energy: 704

NIPSCO: 695

Alliant Energy: 694

We Energies: 694

Vectren: 691

Xcel Energy – Midwest: 691

Wisconsin Public Service: 685

Duke Energy Midwest: 684

ComEd: 702

Ohio Edison: 696

Dayton Power & Light: 691

KCP&L: 690

AEP Ohio: 687

Indiana Michigan Power: 680

Indianapolis Power & Light: 671

OPPD: 669

Ameren Missouri: 665

The Illuminating Co.: 665

Toledo Edison: 654

Westar Energy: 637

Atmos Energy – Midwest: 721

Nicor Gas: 702

Columbia Gas of Ohio: 701

SEMCO Energy Gas Co.: 695

Black Hills Energy: 694

CenterPoint Energy – Midwest: 694

Citizens Energy: 692

Laclede Gas: 689

Peoples Gas: 680

Missouri Gas Energy: 679

Dominion Energy Ohio: 678

Kansas Gas Service: 678

South Region

CPS Energy: 698

Louisville Gas & Electric: 690

SCE&G: 690

MLGW: 657

Georgia Power: 738

Florida Power & Light: 724

Kentucky Utilities: 717

OG&E: 710

OUC: 708

JEA: 705

Entergy: 702

Nashville Electric Service: 701

Public Service Co. of Oklahoma: 700

Gulf Power: 697

Xcel Energy – South: 695

Southwestern Electric Power Co.: 687

Dominion Energy Virginia: 683

Duke Energy Carolinas: 683

El Paso: 678

TECO Tampa: 677

Alabama Power: 665

Duke Energy Florida: 659

Austin Energy: 657

Mississippi Power: 656

Duke Energy Progress: 653

Kentucky Power: 600

TECO Peoples Gas: 777

Piedmont Natural Gas: 748

CenterPoint Energy – South: 734

PSNC Energy: 732

Alagasco: 729

Virginia Natural Gas: 727

Columbia Gas – South: 720

Oklahoma Natural Gas: 716

Atmos Energy – South: 712

Texas Gas Service: 705

West Region

Xcel Energy – West: 699

SDG&E: 692

Avista: 672

Puget Sound Energy: 669

PG&E: 656

NorthWestern Energy: 655

SMUD: 744

Idaho Power: 729

Salt River Project: 726

Seattle City Light: 716

Pacific Power: 703

Tucson Electric Power: 701

APS: 695

Rocky Mountain Power: 691

Portland General: 685

Southern California Edison: 685

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power: 653

NV Energy: 652

PNM: 632

Questar Gas 743

Cascade Natural Gas 742

SoCalGas 738

NW Natural 733

Southwest Gas 726

Intermountain Gas Co.: 711

New Mexico Gas Co.: 706

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