Consumer trust in utilities reaches four-year low, Accenture reports


Greg Guthridge,
MD, Accenture Energy
Consumer Services
New York, NY, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — July 2, 2013 – Less than one quarter of consumers now trust their utilities, Accenture has found in its annual survey of more than 11,000 consumers in 21 countries – a decrease of nine percentage points from 2012, and the lowest level of trust since the global research program was launched four years ago.

Customer satisfaction has also drifted lower globally, falling from 59% to 47% over the past year.
Further, across both regulated and competitive energy markets consumers are ready to turn to alternative providers for energy and energy related products and services. If given the choice, almost three-quarters of the consumers surveyed said they would consider alternative providers for purchasing electricity and alternative energy related products and services.
The research shows that delivering the basics of the customer experience is key to building consumer trust. The vast majority of consumers surveyed said that consistently getting the bill correct, receiving reliable energy delivery, and getting clear and easy-to-understand pricing information are the factors that matter most in building their trust with energy providers.  
However, the results also show that there are significant gaps between consumers’ expectations and their utilities’ performance. For example, while 91% said that clear and easy-to-understand pricing information is important, only 69% would rate their providers’ performance in that area as good or excellent – a gap of 22%.
Other findings of the research include:

  • 38% of the consumers said they would like to receive notifications about their energy usage on their mobile device, and 32% said they would like to have the ability to remotely control their home heating, cooling and appliances using their mobile devices
  • More than three-quarters expect detailed online access to their energy usage information and half want online personalized tips on actions they can take to reduce their energy bill
  • 81% would be more interested in purchasing energy related products and/or services if their utility were to provide them information on how to save on their energy bill
  • The vast majority said that once their utility supplies them with a smart meter, they expect the company to provide additional energy related products or services, including personalized advice on actions they can take to reduce their bill, information on new product and service offerings, bill notifications and home energy management solutions. Further, if their utility were to provide them with a variable rate plan option then they would expect the utility to offer new features to help them manage their bill.

“In the evolving energy marketplace, many utilities are at an inflection point at which they should redefine their role in consumers’ lives and refocus on building a base of trust,” commented Greg Guthridge, Accenture Energy Consumer Services managing director. “Satisfaction and trust are built on consistently delivering the basic customer experience whether through digital or traditional channels. Once in place, utilities have incredible opportunities to create digitally powered value propositions that can deliver step-change consumer engagement.”