Case Study

Transforming a Regional Utilities Company From Service Provider to Trusted Partner


Companies who provide utilities—such as gas, electricity, and water—often face unique customer satisfaction challenges. Because they’re often the only choice for a given utility, these companies are commonly seen as little more than commodity service providers, limiting consumers’ expectations and, sometimes, lowering their trust.

Our client, a major regional utilities company, wanted to transform their customers’ perception of them from a commodity service provider to a trusted partner. But first, they needed to know what customers expected from a “trusted partner.”

C+R conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with a range of business decision-makers and focus groups with residential customers to uncover deep insights and assess consumers’ willingness to see our client as a trusted partner. 


Eager To Build Trust

A major regional utilities company had created a new brand vision and strategy and wanted to elicit feedback from customers. The company’s vision was to transform their relationship with customers from a “commodity service provider” to a “trusted partner.”

Customers often don’t think too much about commodity service providers; such providers are typically seen as replaceable and/or less trustworthy, particularly when they have a monopoly in the market (as they did in this case).

Our client wanted to know how they could build trust among business and residential customers.


Qualitative Research Methods to Define and Assess “Trust”

As part of a larger qualitative study, C+R conducted 12 in-depth interviews with decision-makers whose businesses received utilities from our client. Interviews were centered in two markets where our client provides utilities.

Participants worked in a range of industries, including finance, real estate/property management, healthcare services, retail, warehousing, and textiles. Roles ranged from human resources manager, marketing manager, controller, and project manager to owner and vice president. The number of employees at each business ranged from less than 100 to around 50,000.

To capture the residential point of view, researchers also conducted consumer focus groups.

The result

Honest. Consistent. Customer-Focused. Culturally Responsible

The research team discovered that customers define trust in terms of honesty, consistency – particularly in delivering on expectations, customer-focus, and cultural responsibility. Most of the business decision-makers interviewed were willing to grant our client permission to become more of a trusted partner—and take on a bigger role in providing utilities to their businesses—if it meant the decision-makers could save money through reduced usage of the utility.

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