Utility Industry COVID-19 Response Will Build Lasting Goodwill

March 24, 2020
Author: Chris Oberle

“Goodwill is the only asset that competition cannot undersell or destroy.” – Marshall Field

The utility industry has a long history of responding to local communities in need. From economic recessions to cyberattacks to storm and earthquake recovery, utility companies have answered the call to support their customers beyond the standard transmission and delivery of energy. Now, as the communities they serve battle the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, utilities are again doing what they can to win the war against the virus by providing programs and support that many customers need. And utility companies’ support goes beyond their customers, as they are also ensuring the safety of their employees during the crisis.

Recognizing the immediate impact they can have during this global pandemic, utilities across the country are stepping up. What are they doing? Below are some examples:

  • Southern California Edison and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) have postponed noncritical planned power shutoffs as more customers are staying home.
  • LADWP, which operates the Intermountain Power Plant, has ensured a supply of food and water onsite so the power can keep flowing.
  • Entergy and CenterPoint Energy have temporarily suspended disconnections.
  • Exelon is contributing $1.5 million to local public health relief efforts to combat the virus.
  • National Grid has set aside $500K to help customers impacted by COVID-19 pay their bills.
  • Southern California Edison has allowed two-thirds of its workforce to telecommute.
  • PG&E has pledged to continue work on wildfire mitigation.
  • Seattle City Light has allowed deferred payments and has opened its utility discount program (which provides bill amount discounts to qualified customers) to customers impacted by COVID-19.
  • TECO Tampa Electric offers a COVID-19 response resources page on its website that provides information and resource contacts to help customers deal with the crisis.
  • PG&E has provided a page on its website to highlight actions they have taken to support their customers, safeguard the health of their employees and link to COVID-19 information resources.
  • Southern Company Gas has issued social distancing guidelines for its field crew who work with customers.
  • SMUD has ceased disconnects for non-payment and restored power to recently disconnected customers.
  • Arizona Public Service (APS) has set-up a customer support fund for customers having difficulty paying their bill due to a financial hardship resulting from the COVID-19.

While these and other measures are taken by utilities as part of their mission to serve their communities, the impact of responding to customers in need will build goodwill among customers that will likely last well into the future. Our Cogent Syndicated Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement study shows the positive impact of utility actions that support the community.

Customer Scoring Impact of Utility Efforts that Support Community

Although not the driving purpose of this level of community support, utilities will likely emerge from this time with stronger reputation and higher levels of brand trust. In this time of uncertainty and dislocation, utilities are standing up and offering goodwill with the understanding that we are all in this together—utility industry and community.

Feel free to reach out to me or your contact at Escalent with any questions or discussion topics on measuring the impact of your efforts on community support.

Chris Oberle
Senior Vice President, Energy

Chris Oberle is a senior vice president in our Energy division, with more than 25 years of executive management experience in the energy and financial services sectors. He manages the development and delivery of syndicated studies, custom research, best practices and advisory services. Throughout his career, Chris has earned a reputation as a customer experience thought leader by helping clients improve the way they develop, deliver, engage and satisfy customers with their programs and brands. Chris earned an MBA from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California. He coaches youth sports and spends time with his kids at USC and UCLA.