Around the world utility companies are exposed to major reputational challenges and opportunities. While companies face increased concerns over climate change, energy safety and volatile energy prices there are also a number of opportunities for corporate value creation and reputational growth as these same challenges provide opportunities to for the development of products and services as well as the traditional models of stakeholder engagement. These will become important sources of competitive differentiation.

A recent global survey from Accenture found that consumer habits are starting to change, with more customers seeking energy efficient services, shopping around for better deals and requiring broader yet more tailored propositions and experiences. As well as providing greater opportunities for energy companies, the report makes clear that these changing needs will also attract new competition to deliver them.

The Citizens Advice Bureau in partnership with Ofgem has recently introduced the "Energy Best Deal" campaign aiming to raise awareness of the savings that customers can make by negotiating with existing providers, financial help customers can receive from suppliers and advice on how to save money by using less energy. Following the recent criticisms of the Big Six for allegedly confusing customers with a complex array of tariffs, this campaign could significantly help energy customers choose the best deal adapted to their lifestyle and consumption needs in the crowded market. In short, there will be greater price transparency and ease of supplier switching.

Meanwhile, major energy companies are having to adapt to increased customer expectations for the quality and nature of their services as new " beyond-the-meter" products and services offered from alternative suppliers are gaining greater traction. The need for greater convenience and mobility with the use of smart updated technologies has attracted numerous alternative companies from sectors such as telecoms and online price comparison sites to enter the fast-growing energy retail industry threatening traditional suppliers with customer loss.

Electricity providers need to change the way they operate and significantly transform the way they engage with their customers. As information data becomes more publicly available, customers will easily be able to track and compare the performance of energy products and services across a range of criteria including price, reliability, customer service, innovation and many more. Furthermore, new entrants bring with them different models and speeds of innovation from their sectors, which in itself will likely force the pace of change for energy providers.

As consumers become more demanding, price and service comparison becomes easier and new entrants up the sector’s game, reputation for utilities’ Products & Services Execution will become ever more important. Companies that are willing to invest in developing innovative ways to improve their cost-effectiveness, convenience, and customer service to adapt to these new requirements will be well-placed to enhance their reputations and therefore their sales and customer retention.

Alva’s methodology

Alva calculates its reputation scores on a 1 to 10 fractional value basis, which represents the perception of various stakeholders and market segments at any given point in time. The scores are based on the daily analysis of over half a million news and financial announcements, trading and analyst reports and social media comments.

—— Nicholas Chrysanthou, energy consultant analyst at Alva