Leading Utilities Increase Customer Engagement by Delivering on Value

Escalent Recognizes 34 Utilities as 2023 Customer Champions

LIVONIA, Mich., Dec. 14, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A new Cogent Syndicated report from Escalent finds as the impact of inflation and higher energy prices continues to reverberate through the Energy industry, the overall perception that utilities are offering reasonable rates for the services they provide is seeing a persistent decline, leading to an overall drop in customer engagement.

Despite the decline in customer engagement, 34 outstanding utilities, recognized today as Escalent’s 2023 Customer Champions, have scored well above their industry peers in building engaged customer relationships. These utilities have demonstrated their value beyond basic energy service delivery and communicated that value to customers.

Those are some of the latest findings of the 2023 Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential study, which tracks the performance of 141 gas, electric and combination utilities to identify brand and customer experience opportunities and trends in the industry. The report is published semiannually by Escalent, a top human behavior and analytics advisory firm with extensive energy, utility and brand experience.

After reaching a peak of 728 from a maximum possible score of 1,000 at the end of 2020, the residential Engaged Customer Relationship (ECR) score has been steadily declining and now stands at 702. While Customer Champion utilities did not emerge from 2023 unscathed—approximately 50% of them saw some degree of ECR score loss from Q4’22—they still performed significantly better than the industry as a whole.

The study found that customers’ average reported utility bill amount, which has been ticking up for several years, is now 20% higher than it was at the end of 2019, and more than one-third of customers are facing energy utility bills of more than $200 a month. Last year, utilities that were successfully communicating to customers about customer programs and bill management opportunities saw higher ECR scores; this year, higher-performing utilities saw success by demonstrating their value to customers.

“Facing higher prices across spending categories, many consumers are carefully reevaluating their expenses,” said Suzanne Haggerty, director of syndicated research with the Energy team at Escalent. “Utility customers are trying to identify how they benefit from the increased energy prices they’re paying, and many are unable to do so.”

Customer Champions outperformed the industry average in several attributes, notably:

  • Customer Champions are providing more effective outage communication to affected customers, contributing to 5% higher Safety & Reliability Index scores.
  • Customer Champions are clearly and effectively communicating the benefits offered by their opt-in programs, leading to 7% higher Product Benefits Awareness Index scores.
  • Customer Champions are providing transparent updates on their environmental objectives, leading to 6% higher Environmental Index scores.

In addition to optimizing the customer experience, Customer Champions are reinforcing their value proposition to customers through more effective and consistent communication. The Communications Intensity Index, an indication of utility communication spending, for Customer Champions is 12% higher than the industry average, and their customers report higher recall of messages related to service reliability, renewable energy, ease of service interactions and the ways the utility is supporting a clean environment.

“As inflation persists and many customers continue to see higher utility bills, utilities that focus on affordability, transparency, innovation and community engagement will deliver value that resonates with customers,” Haggerty continued.

Escalent is pleased to name these 34 utilities as our 2023 Customer Champions.

Cogent Syndicated 2023 Customer Champions*
Atmos Energy – SouthNIPSCO
CenterPoint Energy – MidwestNW Natural
Chattanooga Gas CompanyOUC
Columbia Gas of OhioPECO
Con EdisonPenn Power
Consumers EnergyPeoples Gas
Dominion Energy South CarolinaPhiladelphia Gas Works
Duquesne Light CompanyPiedmont Natural Gas
Elizabethtown GasPSE&G
Florida City Gas CompanyPuget Sound Energy
Georgia PowerSalt River Project
Green Mountain PowerSMUD
Idaho PowerSouthwest Gas
Indiana Michigan PowerSpire Mississippi
Intermountain Gas CompanyTECO Peoples Gas
Montana-Dakota UtilitiesWashington Gas
New Jersey Natural GasXcel Energy – Midwest

* Utilities named as Customer Champions are selected based on having Engaged Customer Relationship Index scores in the top decile of the industry, the top score within their respective benchmark segment, or an Engaged Customer Relationship Index score within 20 points of the top benchmark segment score and above the industry average.

The following tables reflect regional peer benchmark Engaged Customer Relationship scores among the 141 utilities surveyed.

East Region Utilities Customer Engagement Performance
Utility brand nameService providedECR score
Con EdisonCombination732
National GridCombination703
Delmarva PowerCombination692
Green Mountain PowerElectric723
Duquesne Light CompanyElectric711
Penn PowerElectric704
Potomac EdisonElectric692
Atlantic City ElectricElectric691
Mon PowerElectric690
PSEG Long IslandElectric681
West Penn PowerElectric679
PPL Electric UtilitiesElectric670
Jersey Central Power & LightElectric665
Appalachian PowerElectric653
Central Maine PowerElectric576
Philadelphia Gas WorksNatural Gas744
Elizabethtown GasNatural Gas742
Washington GasNatural Gas732
New Jersey Natural GasNatural Gas732
South Jersey Gas CompanyNatural Gas719
PeoplesNatural Gas700
National Fuel GasNatural Gas697
UGI UtilitiesNatural Gas694
Columbia Gas – EastNatural Gas677

Midwest Region Utilities Customer Engagement Performance
Utility brand nameService providedECR score
Xcel Energy – MidwestCombination751
Montana-Dakota UtilitiesCombination734
Consumers EnergyCombination731
Black Hills Energy – MidwestCombination728
DTE EnergyCombination725
Ameren IllinoisCombination723
MidAmerican EnergyCombination719
Duke Energy MidwestCombination718
Wisconsin Public ServiceCombination717
Alliant EnergyCombination710
We EnergiesCombination694
CenterPoint Energy – IndianaCombination577
Indiana Michigan PowerElectric734
Ameren MissouriElectric709
The Illuminating CompanyElectric698
Ohio EdisonElectric695
Toledo EdisonElectric693
AEP OhioElectric693
AES IndianaElectric649
AES OhioElectric639
Peoples GasNatural Gas742
Columbia Gas of OhioNatural Gas742
CenterPoint Energy – MidwestNatural Gas722
Dominion Energy OhioNatural Gas711
Atmos Energy – MidwestNatural Gas710
Citizens EnergyNatural Gas709
Spire Missouri – EastNatural Gas705
Spire Missouri – WestNatural Gas698
Nicor GasNatural Gas686
Kansas Gas ServiceNatural Gas684

South Region Utilities Customer Engagement Performance
Utility brand nameService providedECR score
Dominion Energy South CarolinaCombination744
Louisville Gas & ElectricCombination707
CPS EnergyCombination699
Georgia PowerElectric767
Mississippi PowerElectric742
Duke Energy ProgressElectric729
Duke Energy CarolinasElectric728
Alabama PowerElectric728
Duke Energy FloridaElectric727
Florida Power & LightElectric724
Entergy ArkansasElectric722
TECO Tampa ElectricElectric721
Nashville Electric ServiceElectric713
Public Service Company of OklahomaElectric709
Entergy LouisianaElectric699
Dominion Energy VirginiaElectric698
Xcel Energy – SouthElectric686
Entergy TexasElectric686
El Paso ElectricElectric682
Entergy MississippiElectric681
Southwestern Electric Power CompanyElectric680
Kentucky UtilitiesElectric661
Austin EnergyElectric636
FPL Northwest FLElectric625
Kentucky PowerElectric616
Entergy New OrleansElectric581
Florida City Gas CompanyNatural Gas784
Spire MississippiNatural Gas763
Piedmont Natural GasNatural Gas761
Atmos Energy – SouthNatural Gas761
TECO Peoples GasNatural Gas760
Chattanooga Gas CompanyNatural Gas756
CenterPoint Energy – SouthNatural Gas744
Spire AlabamaNatural Gas742
Columbia Gas – SouthNatural Gas733
Spire Gulf CoastNatural Gas732
Oklahoma Natural GasNatural Gas729
Texas Gas ServiceNatural Gas726
Dominion Energy North CarolinaNatural Gas711
Virginia Natural GasNatural Gas707

West Region Utilities Customer Engagement Performance
Utility brand nameService providedECR score
Puget Sound EnergyCombination753
NorthWestern EnergyCombination706
Colorado Springs UtilitiesCombination674
Black Hills Energy – WestCombination672
Xcel Energy ColoradoCombination660
Salt River ProjectElectric752
Idaho PowerElectric736
Seattle City LightElectric727
Los Angeles Department of Water & PowerElectric715
Tucson Electric PowerElectric710
Portland General ElectricElectric703
Pacific PowerElectric690
NV EnergyElectric687
Southern California EdisonElectric686
Rocky Mountain PowerElectric656
NW NaturalNatural Gas743
Intermountain Gas CompanyNatural Gas730
Southwest GasNatural Gas723
Cascade Natural GasNatural Gas722
SoCalGasNatural Gas719
New Mexico Gas CompanyNatural Gas719
Dominion Energy – WestNatural Gas710

For more information on the full report, click here.

About Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential

Escalent conducted surveys among 65,523 residential electric, natural gas and combination utility customers of the 141 largest US utility companies (based on residential customer counts). The sample design uses a combination of quotas and weighting based on US census data 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. Escalent will supply the exact wording of any survey question upon request.

About Escalent

Escalent is an award-winning data analytics and advisory firm that helps clients understand human and market behaviors to navigate disruption and business transformation. As catalysts of progress for more than 40 years, our strategies guide the world’s leading brands. We accelerate growth by creating a seamless flow between primary, secondary, syndicated, and internal business data, providing consulting and advisory services from insights through implementation. Based on a profound understanding of what drives human beings and markets, we identify actions that build brands, enhance customer experiences, inspire product innovation and boost business productivity. Visit escalent.co to see how we are helping shape the brands that are reshaping the world.

Contact   Stephanie Salvadero, 734.838.5192