T&D World Magazine
Utilities Increase Engagement with Consumers; 44 Named 2015 'Customer Champions'

Utilities Increase Engagement with Consumers; 44 Named 2015 'Customer Champions'

Despite improvements, some customer segments continue to be underserved

In 2015, many of the nation’s 125 largest electric and natural gas utilities made significant strides in strengthening bonds with residential consumers compared to 2014. Along with the release of its 2015 Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential Study, which includes these results, Cogent Reports also named 44 Customer Champions, an elite group of utilities that achieved top-tier Engaged Customer Relationship (ECR) scores based on feedback from more than 52,000 residential ratepayers.

Details of the report show year-over-year industry-wide gains across a spectrum of 74 attributes related to Brand Trust, Operational Satisfaction and Product Experience, the three core components that comprise the overall ECR scores first introduced by Cogent Reports in 2014. However, the biggest gains in 2015 were related to the emotional connection consumers feel with their utility—a key aspect of Brand Trust—satisfaction with safety and reliability, and improved ratings for education efforts to promote the benefits of utility value-added programs.

In the wake of the industry’s current mergers, mandates and new market entrants, Chris Oberle, senior vice president at Market Strategies notes that improved customer engagement performance bodes well for all stakeholders and believes the current momentum will continue.

“These results prove that the industry is in transition and is becoming more engaged with its customers on important topics and forming stronger relationships with them,” said Oberle. “This is proof the industry sees value in and is getting focused on building real franchise value beyond its pipes and wires presence.”

According to Cogent, an area where there is room for improvement is better targeting by utilities to increase engagement with specific customer segments on the offerings, products and options they have developed. This is a reflection of the fact that along with the obligation to serve defined geographies, comes an industry challenge to build relationships with a very diverse customer base.

“We have found that customer ratings on brand, product and satisfaction vary greatly by customer type. Utilities that have successfully targeted customer segments based upon their product offering needs have much higher customer engagement scoring,” Oberle added. “In addition, some utilities lag on serving diverse customer bases. For instance, among 23 utilities that were top performers on engaging Hispanic customers, only three come from border states. Top performers in the future will be utilities that have built a successful customer management strategy.”

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