New CBD Survey Finds Electricity Suppliers Are Viewed as Greedy, Arrogant, Cold; Companies Need to Be Consumer-Focused to Thrive

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A new national survey by Chicago marketing firm Colman Brohan Davis (CBD) explores consumers’ attitudes about energy consumption and their electricity providers. Findings should be a wake-up call for utilities and energy retailers who will need healthy customer relationships to address the nation’s energy challenges and defend against technology innovators.

“Competitive energy markets and smart meters will continue to put consumers in the driver’s seat, and technology is coming that will disrupt the status quo,” said Colman Brohan Davis Co-CEO Liz Brohan.

A new national survey by Chicago marketing firm Colman Brohan Davis (CBD) explores consumers’ attitudes about energy consumption and their electricity providers. Findings should be a wake-up call for utilities and energy retailers who will need healthy customer relationships to address the nation’s energy challenges and defend against technology innovators. Top line insights include:

  •     Consumers have high interest in energy topics: 69 percent of respondents are interested in costs, 45 percent want to know more about energy efficiency and conservation.
  •     Only 20 percent of respondents have positive perceptions of their electricity supplier. When asked to describe their provider as a person, over 50 percent used negative or even hostile language such as greedy, arrogant, cold, impersonal, sneaky, shady, and corrupt.
  •     68 percent of responders believe their provider has 80 to 100 percent control of the electricity rate – a major misperception.

Several hundred homeowners and renters participated in CBD’s “2011 US Residential Electricity Consumer Survey.” With consumers interested in gaining control over their energy options, survey findings suggest energy companies must anticipate and respond to customer needs.

“Competitive energy markets and smart meters will continue to put consumers in the driver’s seat, and technology is coming that will disrupt the status quo,” said Colman Brohan Davis co-CEO Liz Brohan. “Whether in a competitive market or not, consumers are extremely interested in many energy topics, including sustainability, conservation, and efficiency. Energy companies that understand customer motivations and attitudes can act to create true relationships and partnerships.”

The survey findings informed CBD’s position paper titled: “The Customer Imperative: Why the Energy Industry Must Embrace the Customer to Survive.” The position paper also outlines how energy businesses can profit through differentiation and relevance by adopting a customer-centric business model. As examples:

  •     98 percent of respondents are interested in seeing their provider explore sustainable energy sources.
  •     63 percent of respondents say they would like to be rewarded for prompt payment of their utility bills, and 50 percent would value a rewards program for lowering consumption.

“This is an industry in transition, where adaptation to a consumer-centric model shouldn’t be thought of as optional,” concludes Brohan. “In order to thrive, they need to embrace their new reality and market what is most meaningful to their customers.”

The position paper, including the results of CBD’s “2011 US Residential Electricity Consumer Survey,” is available to purchase and download here:

About Colman Brohan Davis: Colman Brohan Davis (CBD) is a marketing services firm with deep expertise in the energy industry, and with a wide range of consumer and business products. CBD helps companies and organizations market what’s most meaningful about their brand, product or service. The team responsible for the survey and white paper include Liz Brohan, Co-CEO, Gina Miller, Vice President of Customer Engagement, and Richard Guha, President of Max Brand Equity and former president of Reliant Energy.

About the 2011 Residential Electricity Consumer Study: In March 2011, Colman Brohan Davis conducted an online survey to a nationally distributed survey panel. It included a total of 364 participants consisting of 304 residential utility bill-payers and 60 adult influencers in the home. The sample consisted of 74 percent homeowners and 26 percent renters, with an equal distribution of males and females over age 25.

Please contact Katie Whitmore or Jean Ban for the 2011 US Residential Electricity Consumer Survey.

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Katie Whitmore
Colman Brohan Davis
312-661-1050
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Jean Ban
Colman Brohan Davis
312-661-1050
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