E Source, in partnership with The Nielsen Company, has released its 2013 Utility Brand Strength Rankings (based on a broad survey of US residential customers of electric and combined gas and electric utilities).

E Source 2013 Top 10 Utility Brand Rankings (US utilities overall):

  1. Omaha Public Power District
  2. Snohomish County Public Utility District
  3. MidAmerican Energy
  4. Sacramento Municipal Utility District
  5. Salt River Project
  6. Portland General Electric
  7. Idaho Power
  8. Alliant Energy
  9. Seattle City Light
  10. Colorado Springs Utilities

E Source 2013 Top 10 Utility Brand Rankings (US investor-owned utilities):

  1. MidAmerican Energy
  2. Portland General Electric
  3. Idaho Power
  4. Alliant Energy
  5. Rochester Gas and Electric
  6. APS
  7. OG&E
  8. PPL Electric Utilities
  9. Central Maine Power Co.
  10. Duquesne Light

To help utilities understand what drives customers’ perceptions of utility brand, E Source analyzed brand attribute data from the Energy Audit survey, an annual online survey of 32,000 US residential households that delves into a variety of energy-related topics, including a set of questions connected to utility brand. E Source examined nine separate attributes of utility brand strength and value: Image, perceptions of price-to-value ratio, communication effectiveness, program offerings, environmental friendliness, customer service, trustworthiness, reliability, and customer loyalty. From this, an overall blended brand rating was constructed by averaging the nine individual attribute scores.

Overall, utilities continue to receive the highest ratings from their customers for reliability and customer service. Utility trustworthiness also scored relatively high; however, perceptions of value remain low (driven partially by poor perceptions of program offerings and communication practices). As a result, customer loyalty remains low as the industry heads into an increasingly complex and uncertain business environment.

“Utilities need to prepare for a decade of potentially significant change. Reliability and customer service are table stakes, so utilities need to refocus their brands toward customer value,” says Matthew Burks, associate director for E Source Customer Experience Services.

E Source analysis revealed that some utility brand drivers can be controlled by the utility, whereas others are simply part of the demographic makeup of customers. Whether they’re leveraging enhanced communications, improving program and service offerings, or thoughtfully engaging specific service territory segments, top-performing utilities drive value by proactively shaping their customers’ reality. For example, customers who participate in green or renewable energy services report a higher overall brand score than those who don’t. Younger customers—as well as those with a liberal political mindset—are the best targets for green energy; however, they also score utility brands lower. Engaging these customer segments through green energy programs is one simple example of how progressive utilities can improve brand perceptions.

Brand scores were higher from customers who participate in efficiency programs, warranty options, or renewable energy programs. The same is true for those who opt into customer services such as auto pay, budget billing, and web payment.

According to Burks, “Utilities need to find the win-win opportunities. What makes customers happy and improves the utility’s bottom line? Plenty of mutually beneficial, ‘brand positive’ openings exist; they just need to be uncovered and acted upon.”

For more information about the rankings, read the E Source blog post The Best Utility Brands of 2013.

About E Source

For 25 years, E Source has been providing unbiased, objective research and advisory services to over 300 utilities and large energy users. Our energy experts have answered more than 8,000 questions over the past 3 years. This guidance helps our customers advance their efficiency programs, enhance customer relationships, and use energy more efficiently.

Public Relations Contact

Kym Wootton, Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications, E Source
E-mail Kym Wootton
303-345-9168

Contributing Authors

Vice President, Marketing

Kym Wootton is responsible for the company’s marketing, event management, corporate communications, member engagement, and brand management....