News & Insights

Inspiration, Ideas and Connections: 20th Annual Member Engagement Summit Recap

The Cooperative Insights team was thrilled to welcome more than 100 representatives from close to 40 electric cooperatives to Raleigh this week to share ideas and best practices for raising member satisfaction and engagement at the Member Engagement Summit. Thank you to all who attended for making it a great event!

Designed to provide actionable ideas and build connections across the cooperative network, the Summit shared perspectives from experts and cooperative employees on a wide range of topics. Here’s a peek into several of the sessions:

Building trust in turbulent times
Representatives from Cobb EMC and MidSouth Electric Cooperative shared tips for maintaining and building trust through difficult situations, and as well as creating exceptional experiences that raise satisfaction.

Stacey Forgason, communications manager for MidSouth in Navasota, Texas, shared how the cooperative successfully communicated through load shed requirements during winter storm Uri. Tactics included consistently sharing facts with members through email and responding to all questions on social media during a set timeframe.

When the cooperative faced rising fuel prices in 2022, Forgason said education was a key communication priority. Podcasts featuring the CEO and a local expert from Texas A&M received record listens. The co-op also promoted conservation, rebates and its solar farm, and took steps to ensure that all employees were aligned on messaging through tools like a one-pager for member service representatives and wallet cards for linemen and the board of directors.
Krista Williams, supervisor of consumer marketing at Cobb EMC, shared how her cooperative convenes a cross-functional team of employees to assess member experiences through journey mapping on blue-sky days, utilizing data and experiences to assess the current state and impact change.

“Consider every interaction with a member as an opportunity,” Williams said. “How can we make every experience exceptional?”

Using the redesign of an online rate selection tool as an example, Williams shared how the revamped online process has helped more members use the tool to select a rate and stay on the webpage longer. She also stressed the importance of “keeping them in their channel of choice,” which in this case meant providing a phone option in addition to the online tool.

Engaging members in the grid of the future
Another session at the Summit explored how co-ops are successfully connecting with members through time-of-use rates, smart thermostat and water heater control programs, home solar interconnections and EVs.

Bryon Kennedy, vice president of member services & public relations at Surry-Yadkin EMC, explained what has motivated a high percentage of their members to adopt a time-of-use rate. “Members want that instant savings and information on what they can do to affect their bill,” he said.

Carrie Stroud, vice president of communications and marketing at Union Power Cooperative in Monroe, N.C., shared that her co-op is piloting managed EV charging and focusing on employee education as member interest in EVs expands. “We have even utilized an AI chat tool we’ve named Liam that helps provide information to cooperative members in real time,” Stroud said.

Brookes Versaggi, manager of communications and member engagement at Brunswick EMC, discussed how his cooperative is enrolling members in smart thermostat programs for wholesale power cost savings and increased reliability. “Our members see great value in our thermostat programs and the cooperative benefits from cost savings during peak periods. It’s a win, win,” he said.

Translating data into action
Roanoke Cooperative CEO Marshall Cherry shared key findings from their Broadband Survey, an offering of Cooperative Insights, and how they have been applied in marketing and strategy, including through a rebrand. “Evaluating member perceptions through a variety of surveys has been an important part of Roanoke Cooperative’s strategy for more than a decade,” Cherry said. “We know we need a strategy that prioritizes the deployment of broadband through FYBE and addresses the community and household needs.”

In that same session, Catherine O’Dell, vice president of member services & public relations at South River EMC, provided tips on how her cooperative has used data to achieve high member satisfaction. Her secret weapon? Verbatims from the Member Satisfaction Tracking system, which guide much-appreciated outreach to members for issue resolution, as well as a boost for employees when positive comments are shared.

Join us for next year’s 2024 Member Engagement Summit in Raleigh, N.C.; dates to be announced soon.