- A utility survey released by Cogent Energy Reports finds "extremely high" overall customer satisfaction scores, but also shows that building trust is essential to stronger engagement between the consumer and electric company.
- The survey showed 77% of utilities achieving a high score of at least 710 on a 1,000-point scale, based on the 2014 research.
- Cogent says it surveyed more than 40,000 utility customers of the 127 largest American utilities in April-May and September-October of last year.
As utilities in the Northeast dig out from a winter storm this week, those who have built a trusting relationship with their customers are likely to have an easier time of it. That's the practical and immediate takeaway from Cogent's research, which finds that strengthening customer engagement means letting the consumer know you're prepared.
“This is playing out this week as snowstorms roll through the East coast," said the report's author, Chris Oberle. "Those utilities with trusted brands will likely fare better with their customers.”
Cogent, a division of Market Strategies International, released customer satisfaction rankings for the nation’s 127 largest electric and gas utilities and revealed that providers averaged 725 on a 1,000-point scale. Additional analysis, however, revealed that other factors, including trust, are critical to deepening customer engagement.
“These results reflect the many improvements and investments that utilities have made in their operations over the last decade, and companies have a right to be proud,” said Oberle. “However, increasing operational satisfaction further will require massive spending and is likely to deliver only incremental improvements. Companies seeking to strengthen their relationships with customers should instead focus more attention on building brand trust.”
Cogent found that brand trust explains 53% of the variability observed in operational satisfaction scores. Specifically, the firm said that among six trust-related attributes, customers’ belief that their utility is “dedicated to continuous quality and reliability” shows the greatest impact.
Trust also makes a difference when customers actually experience an outage, the report found. Among customers experiencing an outage, those customers with strong brand trust report significantly higher levels of operational satisfaction than do those with low levels of trust .
“On reliability, since 80% of customers don’t actually experience an outage, just being ready isn’t enough. It’s critical for utilities to invest the time and effort in building the belief and perception among customers that they are prepared to handle a problem if and when it occurs,” said Oberle.