Utilities with the most favorable brand perceptions enjoy “significantly higher levels of overall customer satisfaction” that can help smooth the path to improved customer support for initiatives and special offerings and programs, according to a report from J.D. Power.
J.D. Power’s inaugural Utility Brand Appeal Index Study analyzes how well utilities relate to customers, evaluating the specific actions that influence overall brand experience, including scores for company reputation, marketing execution and customer trust among 149 electric utilities and 85 gas utilities.
The study captured the responses of nearly 80,000 utility customers and was fielded from September 2022 through May 2023.
The index applies to all electric and natural gas utilities in the United States profiled in the J.D. Power Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study and the Gas Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study.
“Brand appeal is the ability to engage customers to use and promote a utility company, its service quality, initiatives and offerings,” Chris Oberle, managing director of utilities intelligence at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “For utilities, that’s much more than just reliable gas or electric delivery—it’s the whole experience from service interactions to engagement with the community and enhanced programs.”
“When utilities get their brand formulas right, everything else falls into place,” Oberle said. “They face less resistance to rate increases; customers are more aware and willing to participate in special programs; and their community initiatives are infused with a sense of goodwill and trust.”
The report found that utilities with the highest brand appeal scores on average had overall satisfaction scores that are more than 300 points – on a 1,000-point scale – higher than those with weak brand appeal scores, and utilities with the strongest scores rank in the top quartile in customer satisfaction and enjoy greater loyalty and advocacy.
In addition, the report’s authors said that for electric and gas utilities with strong brand appeal scores, community outreach and communications programs are more effective, and customers are more likely to adopt their products, options and services.
The report also found that gas utilities have stronger brands than electric utilities with gas utilities on average scoring 712 on overall brand appeal, which is 15 points higher than 697 scored by electric utilities. In addition, 51 percent of gas utility customers have a fuel preference for natural gas in their homes, with 78 percent relying on natural gas for heat and 58 percent using it to cook.