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Brand trust is critical for strengthening the overall relationships that utilities have with their customers. What's more, there is a significant monetary value that can be linked directly to trust. These and other findings are contained in a new report from Cogent Reports, a division of Market Strategies International, that measures customer engagement with electric and natural gas utilities.

The company says the 2014 Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement study is based on a survey of 19,000 residential utility customers served by the 125 largest natural gas, electric and combination utilities in the U.S.

In addition to the study, Cogent Reports has released a list of the 52 utilities categorized as most-trusted brands in each of 12 regional and industry segments. According to the company, Florida Power & Light is the nation’s most trusted electric utility and has received the highest overall brand trust score (724 points out of a possible 1,000 points) of any utility. Oklahoma Natural Gas ranks first in trust among gas utilities nationally, while MidAmerican is the most trusted combination utility provider. Overall performance and tier structure vary by region and type of utility, with all companies named achieving a minimum threshold score of 650.

“By earning the trust of their customers, these companies are creating financial value in their brands,” says Chris Oberle, a senior vice president for Market Strategies and the lead author of the report. “While about four in 10 utilities in our survey are designated as Most Trusted Utility Brands, an even more select group of just 15 manage to achieve brand trust scores of at least 700 out of a possible score of 1,000.”

For a complete list of the most trusted U.S. utilities according to the study, click HERE.

In a hypothetical utility switching exercise, the report also shows that greater incentives would be required to induce a change among customers of utilities with high trust. “Based on these findings, we estimate the current goodwill value for scoring high on trust to be over $8 billion. This shows a significant financial benefit for the industry to focus on raising trust levels,” says Oberle.

The report also shows that customers of utilities with strong brand trust tend to enroll in more programs - such as demand response, energy efficiency, and renewable energy initiatives - and are far more prone to making positive comments on social media and elsewhere about their provider.

“The bottom line is, trust pays,” says Oberle. “By focusing on brand trust and getting it right, a utility can and will increase its franchise value.”

The complete list of the 125 U.S. utility companies covered in the study is available HERE.

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