Data Shows More Communication Leads to Greater Trust for Energy Utilities

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Maureen Mierke's picture
Marketing Manager Questline Inc.

Marketing Manager at Questline - a digital agency that provides content marketing and program promotion solutions to energy utilities who want to build long-term relationships with their customers.

  • Member since 2021
  • 7 items added with 7,401 views
  • Jul 27, 2021

This item is part of the Utility Customer Care - July 2021 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

Customer trust is long sought after with every company, including energy utilities. Trust is formed when a company meets and exceeds expectations time and time again, leading customers to be satisfied in their experience and loyal to that particular brand.

But trust is easier to talk about than to build.

When it comes to energy utilities, trust can seem fragile. Customers expect their lights to come on when they flip a switch and to have the A/C running when temperatures are high. If these things fail to happen, blame quickly goes to the energy utility.

So, how does your energy utility combat this fragility? Communication.

Proactive Communications Resonate

To look ahead at the future of trust, we must look back.

2020 was a year of increased digital engagement, and it would be wrong to not attribute this increase, at least in part, to the coronavirus pandemic. As difficult as the pandemic was for every person, company and industry, an important reminder came from it – proactive communications matter.

Questline research found that by maintaining engagement with customers during good times, energy utilities can more effectively reach customers during bad times. Questline’s 2021 Energy Utility Benchmarks Report, based on data from over 450 energy utilities, showed that 75% of customers who opened one coronavirus-related message from their utility also opened follow-up messages. In addition, the average open rate across all utility communications was 28.1% - the highest in Benchmarks history.1

Source: Questline 2021 Energy Utility Benchmarks Report

Furthermore, according to Escalent, customer trust in energy utilities reached a record high score on the 2021 Utility Brand Trust Index.

This is specifically “due to spending roughly 16% more to communicate about product options, environmental efforts, and how they partnered with customers on shared priorities during the pandemic.”2

Other substantial findings from Escalent’s study include:

  • Two in three (62%) of those with high brand trust use utility digital options.
  • Customer trust is built over time, as new customers give lower Brand Trust scores than those who’ve been customers longer.
  • High brand trust minimizes the negative perception impacts from outage, safety and other critical events, while increasing customer advocacy and loyalty.

Clearly, proactive communications focused on how utilities can partner and support its customers resonate with audiences.

Source: Escalent

The Future of Trust

Consumers are literally asking brands to expand digital engagement and it’s important energy utilities respond. According to the 2020 Salesforce State of the Connected Customer report, “a majority of business customers and consumers (69%) want companies to offer new digital ways to get existing products and services, use digital platforms to expand customer engagement methods (54%), and offer new types of products and services (54%).”4

Yet, it's important to recognize not all digital communications are equal in your customers' eyes. Just increasing the number of emails sent doesn’t mean an increase in trust. Messages must be relevant, timely and helpful.

Your energy utility must consider the wants, interests and needs of your various customers in order to create effective communications. Sending the same message to every customer won’t work. In fact, 74% of customers find mass marketing frustrating, according to McKinsey research.

These results are consistent in study after study. Accenture found that 33% of consumers who abandoned a business did so due to a lack of personalization, while SAP found that among customers who "break up" with a brand, 46% say they are most annoyed when brands send them irrelevant content.

When your energy utility communicates with customers in a way that speaks to them, they are more likely to engage with your communications. This leads to greater trust and satisfaction in the long run.

Chris Oberle, Senior VP for Escalent, noted, “The most trusted utility brands include utilities that are making a positive impact on their customers, communities and financials.”

The time is now to engage or re-engage with your utility’s customers. The pandemic was challenging, but it has opened doors like never before for digital customer engagement.

Trust may need to be acquired, but it is a benefit that will outlive all others. A renewed focused on increased and targeted communications with your utility’s customers can help you achieve lasting brand affinity.


1 Questline 2021 Energy Utility Benchmarks Report

2 Escalent

3 Responsify

4 Harvard Business Review

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 6, 2021

When your energy utility communicates with customers in a way that speaks to them, they are more likely to engage with your communications.

Seems so obvious, but really important. There are humans on both sides of this relationship, and speaking and engaging with them in a meaningful way can define success or lack thereof 

Maureen Mierke's picture
Thank Maureen for the Post!
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