Less than one quarter of consumers trust their utilities, according to an annual survey by Accenture (NYSE: ACN) of more than 11,000 consumers in 21 countries.
Accenture’s New Energy Consumer research shows that just 24 percent of consumers trust their utility to inform them of actions they can take to optimize energy consumption – a decrease of nine percentage points from 2012. This is the lowest level of trust since the multi-year global research program was launched four years ago. Furthermore, customer satisfaction has drifted lower globally, falling from 59 percent to 47 percent over the past year.
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, 73 percent of the consumers surveyed said they would consider alternative providers for purchasing electricity and alternative energy-related products and services.
“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,” said Greg Guthridge, Accenture Energy Consumer Services managing director. “The first step is making interactions simple, in particular getting the basics right the first time. Each touch point with the consumer is critical – whether it involves mobile or digital options for straightforward transactions, or higher-touch interactions to resolve issues.”Despite the fact that many utilities have increased spending on consumer-centric programs, such as online self-service, this has yet to translate directly into improved trust or satisfaction. Storms, challenges with service reliability, and price volatility have all contributed to decreasing customer trust and satisfaction. However, Accenture’s research shows that there is a growing gap between customer expectations and the energy experience they receive from their providers today. 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 (92 percent), receiving reliable energy delivery (91 percent) and getting clear and easy-to-understand pricing information (91 percent) are the factors that matter most in building their trust with energy providers.