There really is a difference in belonging to an electric cooperative.
Every two years, Touchstone Energy® conducts a comprehensive survey to see how electric cooperatives are doing with their members. The survey touches on everything from where the members at the end of the line go for advice on managing energy use to how they feel about solar and other renewables.
In this year’s study, the first completed in two years, almost 14,500 members belonging to 60 electric cooperatives in 26 states were surveyed on a range of topics. The study explores some things that are not surprising, such as the fact that more and more member/consumers are under the age of 40 and don’t identify themselves as members; instead, they just pay the bill when they get it. But there is also evidence that younger generations of member/consumers are more likely to engage on issues impacting electric cooperatives once they learn about the cooperative, not-for-profit business model; they want to know more.
The survey provides:
- A comprehensive analysis of current attitudes of cooperative members
- Critique of our performance as service providers
- Review of member perceptions on issues affecting our industry
- A sounding board for members of electric cooperatives
- Assessment of our members’ use of technology
- Exploration of cooperative community engagement activities
- Examination of members’ social networking behaviors
The graphs shown illustrate just a small portion of the data that was collected in the survey.
Cooperatives provide superior levels of service to residential members, achieving industry leading scores in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) and exemplary ratings for core service elements such as reliability, outage response and problem resolution. Significant opportunities exist to better communicate the value as we add as cooperative energy suppliers, particularly with younger members.
Member Identity and Engagement
Performing well in our core service areas allows us to engage members in an ongoing dialogue about the “cooperative difference.” Focusing this conversation on our goal to provide energy at the lowest possible cost, efforts to mitigate rising energy costs, community engagement activities and how we help members manage their energy costs will drive members to higher levels of satisfaction and engagement.
Our efforts to improve the quality of life in our communities, particularly in areas related to crisis preparedness and response, supporting fire and rescue, energy efficiency, economic development and advocating for affordable energy demonstrate the value of membership and help build satisfaction and engagement with our members.
Trusted Energy Advisor
Cooperatives are the “go-to” source for information about how to save energy in the home or renewable energy. However, members are also very likely to utilize the internet when they have questions. As such, it is critical that cooperatives invest in their online presence to ensure that when members go to the internet for answers, they find objective and reliable advice from their cooperative.
There is significant interest in on-site solar leases and community solar projects. The primary motivation in both cases appears to be driven by an interest to lower their electric bills. However, members are also likely to be driven by an interest in protecting the environment, particularly those interested in community solar projects. Members interested in both community solar and on-site solar appear to favor on-site systems where feasible.
Online portals and smart thermostats generate high levels of interest among the membership. When evaluating the features of these tools, diagnosing when equipment needs maintenance or when increase in electricity usage cannot be explained by the weather appear to have the greatest value.
Internet and Smartphones
Members readily embrace new technology, which allows them to stay connected at home or on the go. Accelerated adoption of smartphones and tablets open significant new communication channels for cooperatives. Cooperatives should leverage these new channels to reach members while continuing to employ traditional media. Members are very likely to have wireless networks in their home, providing ready access to web-enabled smart thermostats.