Leading Utilities Increase Business Customer Engagement by Offering Reliable Energy Partnerships

December 19, 2023

Escalent Recognizes 17 Utilities as 2023 Business Customer Champions

A new Cogent Syndicated report from Escalent finds that persistent inflation and higher energy prices are impacting business customer engagement, which is seeing a decline led by bill manageability concerns and lower utility value perceptions.

Despite the trending decline, 17 outstanding utilities, recognized today as Escalent’s 2023 Business Customer Champions, have scored well above their industry peers for building engaged customer relationships. These utilities have reinforced their value by taking an active and visible role in the local community and offering easy-to-use options that help business customers reach savings and sustainability goals.

Those are some of the latest findings of the 2023 Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Business study, which tracks the performance of 81 gas, electric and combination utilities to identify brand and customer experience opportunities and trends in the industry. The report is published semiannually by Escalent, a top human behavior and analytics advisory firm with extensive energy, utility and brand experience.

After reaching a peak in 2021, the industry Engaged Customer Relationship (ECR) Index among business customers has been steadily declining and dropped a significant 12 points to 766 (on a 1,000-point-maximum scale) from the second half of 2022 to the second half of 2023. Overall, Business Customer Champions have gained 15 points during that same period and are now seeing 5% higher ECR scores than the industry overall.

Business customer ECR scores have not suffered declines as significant as residential customer scores. However, drops in perceived bill manageability, pricing fairness and overall utility value are taking a toll on business customer engagement and the weakening is becoming more substantial.

“For the last two years, business customers have been reporting less financial stress than many residential customers,” said Suzanne Haggerty, director of syndicated research with the Energy team at Escalent. “However, there are signs that persistent high prices due to ongoing inflation are leading to curtailed consumer spending. This will, in turn, reduce revenue and spending power for many utility business customers, making them more price-sensitive and making it difficult for utilities to build and maintain engagement.”

Business customer economic indicators are the lowest they’ve been since 2020, when pandemic lockdowns curbed spending throughout the United States: In the second half of 2023, 17% of business customers in the Cogent study expect their local economic growth to contract over the next year.

Historically, a pessimistic economic outlook correlates with lower Brand Trust and ECR scores. Industrywide, in the second half of 2023 customers who reported declining economic growth score their utility 10% lower on ECR.

Business Customer Champions outperform the industry average in several attributes, notably:

  • Business Customer Champions are leveraging their role as active participants in their local communities, contributing to 7% higher Company Reputation and Business Community Support Index scores.
  • Business Customer Champions are offering a valuable array of opt-in programs with low-effort enrollment processes, leading to 6% higher Product Benefits Awareness Index scores.
  • Finally, Business Customer Champions are communicating more effectively with their customers. The Communications Intensity Index—Cogent’s proxy for utility spend—for Business Customer Champions is 27% higher than the industry average.
  • Additionally, while the industry Communications Intensity Index has declined by 4% from the second half of 2022 to the second half of 2023, the index among Business Customer Champions has increased by 5%. And it’s not just that Business Customer Champions are communicating more often with customers; they’re also communicating more effectively: Champion utilities score 5% higher across the Communications Effectiveness Index, meaning customers find Champion utilities’ messaging easier to understand, more relevant and credible.

“In tough economic times, affordability, transparency and community connections are key to business customer engagement,” Haggerty continued. “Utilities that prove their value as a vital part of the local economic community and act as a trusted energy advisor for their business customers will pave the way to better relationships.”

Escalent is pleased to name these 17 utilities as our 2023 Business Customer Champions.

Cogent Syndicated 2023 Business Customer Champions*
AEP Ohio Los Angeles Department of Water & Power
Ameren Illinois MidAmerican Energy
CenterPoint Energy – South Mississippi Power
Chattanooga Gas Company Nicor Gas
Con Edison OPPD
Dominion Energy Ohio Seattle City Light
Duke Energy Midwest SMUD
El Paso Electric Xcel Energy – Midwest
Florida Power & Light

*Utilities named as Business Customer Champions are selected based on having Engaged Customer Relationship Index scores in the top decile of the industry, the top score within their respective benchmark segment, or an Engaged Customer Relationship Index score within 20 points of the top benchmark segment score and above the industry average.

The following tables reflect regional peer benchmark Engaged Customer Relationship scores among the 81 utilities surveyed.

East Region Utilities Customer Engagement Performance
Utility brand name ECR score
Con Edison 842
National Grid 805
BGE 802
Duquesne Light 791
PSE&G 791
PPL Electric Utilities 769
Jersey Central Power & Light 765
PECO Energy 759
PSEG Long Island 756
Eversource Energy 747
West Penn Power 744
Penelec 733
Appalachian Power 702


Midwest Region Utilities Customer Engagement Performance
Utility brand name ECR score
OPPD 799
MidAmerican Energy 798
Duke Energy Midwest 793
AEP Ohio 792
Xcel Energy – Midwest 788
Ameren Illinois 779
Ameren Missouri 770
ComEd 770
We Energies 767
Consumers Energy 760
Indiana Michigan Power 754
DTE Energy 753
The Illuminating Company 743
Alliant Energy 742
AES Ohio 736
Ohio Edison 715
Wisconsin Public Service 715
AES Indiana 713
Evergy 711


Southern Region Utilities Customer Engagement Performance
Utility brand name ECR score
El Paso Electric 825
Florida Power & Light 809
Mississippi Power 805
Georgia Power 801
Duke Energy Carolinas 793
Dominion Energy Virginia 790
CPS Energy 782
TECO Tampa Electric 781
Alabama Power 778
Public Service Company of Oklahoma 772
Southwestern Electric Power Company 770
Dominion Energy South Carolina 764
Duke Energy Florida 762
Duke Energy Progress 757
Louisville Gas & Electric 756
OG&E 749
Kentucky Utilities 746
JEA 741
FPL Northwest FL 737
Entergy 727


West Region Utilities Customer Engagement Performance
Utility brand name ECR score
Los Angeles Department of Water & Power 845
Seattle City Light 841
SMUD 813
Rocky Mountain Power 798
PNM 797
Puget Sound Energy 793
Salt River Project 792
Xcel Energy Colorado 791
PG&E 790
Colorado Springs Utilities 777
Southern California Edison 774
Idaho Power 765
Pacific Power 761
Portland General Electric 760
APS 752
NV Energy 738
NorthWestern Energy 716
SDG&E 528


Natural Gas Utilities Customer Engagement Performance
Utility brand name ECR score
CenterPoint Energy – South 808
Dominion Energy Ohio 803
Chattanooga Gas Company 801
Nicor Gas 795
CenterPoint Energy – Midwest 787
Virginia Natural Gas 776
Dominion Energy West 745
Dominion Energy North Carolina 703

For more information on the full report, click the button below.


About Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Business

Escalent conducted surveys among 14,364 business customers of 81 US electric, natural gas and combination utility companies. Utilities within the same region are given equal weight to balance the influence of each utility’s customers on survey results. The Engaged Customer Relationship (ECR) Index is a composite score based upon a 360-degree customer review of how engaged businesses are with their energy utility provider. Scores are composed of ratings across service satisfaction, brand and product experiences. Escalent will supply the exact wording of any survey question upon request.

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