Utility Customer Engagement Grows as the Industry Focuses on ESG Principles

December 9, 2021

Escalent Names 45 Utilities as 2021 Customer Champions

The utility industry’s focus on its customers, communities and the environment throughout the pandemic has elevated its customer engagement, a critical factor in growing company value and influencing energy customer behaviors. Escalent’s ECR (engaged customer relationship) Index, a comprehensive customer relationship measurement used by utility management to assess customer engagement, has grown a significant eight points since pre-pandemic levels in 2019 to a strong 721 (on a 1,000-point maximum scale). ECR has improved as a result of utilities’ increasing support for environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts. These findings are based upon data from the 2021 Cogent Syndicated Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential study by top human behavior and analytics advisory firm Escalent.

Essential to the ECR scoring improvement is proactive outreach. The study shows a 23% increase in utility communication spending since 2019. About three in four (73%) communication topics are focused on ESG. And the communication has paid off, as more than one in three customers (36%) is now highly engaged with his or her utility, 33% use energy-efficiency offerings, 63% use digital or smart energy offerings and 16% use revenue-generating home services offerings.

“What makes the gains in customer engagement most impressive is it strengthened despite increasing bill amounts as service satisfaction metrics remained similar to prior years,” said Chris Oberle, senior vice president, Escalent. “Utilities have ramped up their outreach and ESG focus during the pandemic and the positive impact on their customer relationships was almost immediate. The nation’s best utilities are strong and engaging brands customers look to as trusted energy advisers.”

One area of focus for continued growth in customer engagement is more effective communication in suburban and rural areas. While urban areas have grown customer engagement by a large 19 points since 2019 and now have an average ECR score of 745, suburban (711) and rural (705) customers score their utilities much lower.

Based upon the study, which surveyed customers of 140 electric and natural gas utilities nationwide, we are pleased to name 45 utilities as 2021 Customer Champions. These utilities are the industry’s best at engaging customers in meaningful and profitable ways.

Escalent 2021 Utility Customer Champions
AEP Ohio Florida City Gas Company Pepco
Ameren Illinois Florida Power & Light Philadelphia Gas Works
Ameren Missouri Georgia Power Piedmont Natural Gas
Avista Green Mountain Power PPL Electric Utilities
BGE Idaho Power PSE&G
Black Hills Energy – Midwest Intermountain Gas Company Public Service Company of Oklahoma
Cascade Natural Gas Kentucky Utilities RG&E
Columbia Gas – South MidAmerican Energy Salt River Project
Columbia Gas of Ohio Montana-Dakota Utilities SMUD
Con Edison New Jersey Natural Gas Spire Mississippi
Consumers Energy Nicor Gas TECO Peoples Gas
Delmarva Power NW Natural UGI Utilities
Dominion Energy South Carolina Oklahoma Natural Gas Washington Gas
DTE Energy OPPD Wisconsin Public Service
Elizabethtown Gas OUC Xcel Energy – West

Following are ECR scores for all utilities included in the full report.

EAST REGION: Customer Engagement Benchmark Performance

Utility brand name ECR score Utility type
Con Edison 734 Combination
Delmarva Power 733 Combination
BGE 732 Combination
PSE&G 731 Combination
National Grid 721 Combination
RG&E 721 Combination
PECO 712 Combination
Eversource 664 Combination
NYSEG 664 Combination
PPL Electric Utilities 742 Electric
Green Mountain Power 741 Electric
Pepco 734 Electric
Duquesne Light Company 717 Electric
Penn Power 713 Electric
Met-Ed 708 Electric
West Penn Power 707 Electric
Penelec 706 Electric
Potomac Edison 695 Electric
Atlantic City Electric 692 Electric
Appalachian Power 680 Electric
Mon Power 679 Electric
PSEG Long Island 663 Electric
Jersey Central Power & Light 653 Electric
Central Maine Power 646 Electric
Washington Gas 770 Natural Gas
Elizabethtown Gas 763 Natural Gas
UGI Utilities 763 Natural Gas
Philadelphia Gas Works 755 Natural Gas
New Jersey Natural Gas 752 Natural Gas
National Fuel Gas 748 Natural Gas
South Jersey Gas Company 737 Natural Gas
Peoples 723 Natural Gas
Columbia Gas – East 702 Natural Gas

MIDWEST REGION: Customer Engagement Benchmark Performance

Utility brand name ECR score Utility type
Consumers Energy 758 Combination
Wisconsin Public Service 758 Combination
Black Hills Energy – Midwest 751 Combination
Montana-Dakota Utilities 747 Combination
Ameren Illinois 742 Combination
DTE Energy 741 Combination
MidAmerican Energy 740 Combination
Xcel Energy – Midwest 729 Combination
Alliant Energy 726 Combination
NIPSCO 713 Combination
Duke Energy Midwest 712 Combination
We Energies 700 Combination
Vectren 659 Combination
AEP Ohio 725 Electric
OPPD 724 Electric
Ameren Missouri 721 Electric
Toledo Edison 718 Electric
ComEd 711 Electric
Indiana Michigan Power 706 Electric
Ohio Edison 697 Electric
The Illuminating Company 692 Electric
Evergy 690 Electric
AES Indiana 683 Electric
AES Ohio 657 Electric
Columbia Gas of Ohio 757 Natural Gas
Nicor Gas 737 Natural Gas
Peoples Gas 736 Natural Gas
CenterPoint Energy – Midwest 732 Natural Gas
Spire Missouri – East 725 Natural Gas
Atmos Energy – Midwest 724 Natural Gas
Dominion Energy Ohio 718 Natural Gas
Kansas Gas Service 717 Natural Gas
Spire Missouri – West 714 Natural Gas
Citizens Energy 685 Natural Gas

SOUTH REGION: Customer Engagement Benchmark Performance

Utility brand name ECR score Utility type
Dominion Energy South Carolina 709 Combination
Louisville Gas & Electric 702 Combination
CPS Energy 694 Combination
MLGW 662 Combination
OUC 762 Electric
Kentucky Utilities 754 Electric
Florida Power & Light 751 Electric
Public Service Company of Oklahoma 748 Electric
Georgia Power 747 Electric
Mississippi Power 736 Electric
Duke Energy Progress 732 Electric
Entergy Mississippi 730 Electric
TECO Tampa Electric 728 Electric
Entergy Arkansas 727 Electric
Dominion Energy Virginia 726 Electric
OG&E 724 Electric
Nashville Electric Service 720 Electric
El Paso Electric 717 Electric
Xcel Energy – South 717 Electric
Alabama Power 715 Electric
Entergy Texas 714 Electric
Duke Energy Carolinas 713 Electric
Duke Energy Florida 713 Electric
JEA 713 Electric
Southwestern Electric Power Company 709 Electric
Entergy Louisiana 708 Electric
Gulf Power 702 Electric
Austin Energy 679 Electric
Entergy New Orleans 664 Electric
Kentucky Power 662 Electric
Florida City Gas Company 784 Natural Gas
Columbia Gas – South 775 Natural Gas
Piedmont Natural Gas 772 Natural Gas
TECO Peoples Gas 771 Natural Gas
Oklahoma Natural Gas 759 Natural Gas
Spire Mississippi 759 Natural Gas
Dominion Energy North Carolina 750 Natural Gas
CenterPoint Energy – South 749 Natural Gas
Virginia Natural Gas 740 Natural Gas
Spire Alabama 739 Natural Gas
Atmos Energy – South 734 Natural Gas
Texas Gas Service 734 Natural Gas
Chattanooga Gas Company 724 Natural Gas
Spire Gulf Coast 695 Natural Gas

WEST REGION: Customer Engagement Benchmark Performance 

Utility brand name ECR score Utility type
Xcel Energy – West 747 Combination
Avista 734 Combination
Colorado Springs Utilities 720 Combination
SDG&E 707 Combination
NorthWestern Energy 706 Combination
Puget Sound Energy 705 Combination
Black Hills Energy – West 700 Combination
PG&E 666 Combination
Salt River Project 754 Electric
Idaho Power 747 Electric
SMUD 746 Electric
Portland General Electric 728 Electric
Tucson Electric Power 727 Electric
Seattle City Light 723 Electric
Pacific Power 715 Electric
Southern California Edison 712 Electric
NV Energy 701 Electric
Rocky Mountain Power 701 Electric
Los Angeles Department of Water & Power 700 Electric
PNM 695 Electric
APS 690 Electric
Cascade Natural Gas 766 Natural Gas
Intermountain Gas Company 765 Natural Gas
NW Natural 761 Natural Gas
Dominion Energy – West 745 Natural Gas
SoCalGas 740 Natural Gas
Southwest Gas 723 Natural Gas
New Mexico Gas Company 700 Natural Gas


About Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential

Escalent conducted surveys among 78,710 residential electric and natural gas utility customers of the 140 largest US utility companies (based on residential customer counts). The sample design uses a combination of quotas and weighting based on US census data to ensure a demographically balanced sample of each evaluated utility’s customers based on age, gender, income, race and ethnicity. Utilities within the same region and of the same type (e.g., electric-only providers) 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 consumer review of how engaged customers 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.

Want to know more about the full study? Click below.

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