In utilities we trust?

How can energy providers win back the trust of their customers?

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This article first appeared in Utility Week on Friday, 21 January 2013.

Over the last decade public trust in the energy market has steadily declined, with suppliers seen as big-profit making machines. How did we get here?

Every UK household relies on a continuous daily supply of essential utilities, whether gas, electricity or water. Given the basic and essential nature of this provision, you would expect the relationship between supplier and customer not only to be interdependent, but also based on trust and confidence.

In reality, we see increasingly the opposite. Energy providers score poorly in consumer trust surveys, falling behind industries with a historically bad image, like fast food chains (Which?, November 2012).

Over the last decade public trust in the energy market has steadily declined, with suppliers seen as big profit-making machines which always prioritise profit and shareholder return over service quality, customer experience and, above all, value for money.

So how did we get here? And why is being trusted so important for an energy provider? What simple steps can providers take through marketing and branding channels to win back customer trust?