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Powering trust

can energy companies win over the hearts and minds of customers?

The UK energy sector is undergoing a transformation driven by sustainability and innovation, but do consumers trust energy companies? Trust in energy companies overall has remained constant, but low. While there is room for improvement, British Gas, Octopus, Utilita, and Eon show positive signs of growing consumer trust.

Aliteea Feher Senior Executive 12/10/2023

Amid the current noise of net-zero policy, the energy sector in the UK is undergoing a profound transformation, fueled by the pursuit of sustainability, innovation, and resilience. With the imperative to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the energy sector is a key sector in achieving a net-zero carbon economy.

As the nation embraces ambitious decarbonisation goals and strives to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world, energy companies stand at the forefront of pioneering new technologies and policies that will shape the future of energy consumption -making trust the main ingredient in this recipe. But in the face of this do consumers trust energy companies? Especially in the aftermath of the energy cost crisis.

According to BrandVue, Savanta’s brand tracking tool, British Gas (BG) is the most popular in this sector -an expected consequence of its long-lasting reputation and participation within the sector. There is a substantial difference in familiarity between BG and the rest of the market, even EDF (holding the second rank at 63%).

Surprisingly, consumers’ trust in energy companies has remained fairly constant over the past year, though this is of a low base. When asked what attributes they would associate with the brand, trust was the least rated for all energy companies. British Gas customers show the highest level of trust (29%), followed by Octopus (23%).

Outside of British Gas, trust does not appear to be a result of familiarity. For instance, Utilita customers have the third highest level of trust amongst the biggest eight energy companies despite being the least well-known of them. EDF, the company consumers are second most familiar with (63%) are the sixth most trusted (16%) and have even seen this fall over the last 12 months.

Octopus Energy’s recent agreement to buy Shell Energy sees them set to build on their position as the UK’s second biggest domestic energy provider acquiring an additional 1.5 million customers. Additional customers have seen a significant fall in the trust they have in their provider (13% down from 21% a year ago). Gaining the trust of their new customers will be a big task for Octopus going forward.

The level of distrust is concerning, and it could be seen that trust in most energy companies could not get any worse despite the past year of price increases and news of record profits. However, more optimistically, it could be argued that most energy companies have weathered the storm well and are now in a position to grow consumers’ trust in them. British Gas, Octopus, Utilita and Eon show some initial positive signs compared to last year, but there is still a long way to go before any of them can claim to have the trust of their customers.

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