The cooperative difference

By J. Michael Davis

MikeDavisGMAs an elementary school student you may have combed your report cards for EEs that signified you had attained the coveted “exceeds expectations” rating in aspects of school life that couldn’t be assigned a letter grade. As you grew, EEs turned into A’s and B’s (you hoped), and you probably never lost that desire to exceed expectations.

North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives also strive for EEs. Besides doing what you expect us to do — provide affordable, safe and reliable electric service — we want to do more. That’s because cooperatives are different.

Unlike bigger electric utilities, your electric cooperative is part of your community’s fabric. Cooperatives were formed by communities and grew up with their communities. Our boards of directors and employees are your neighbors. We support local projects, local education and local charities. We actively participate in efforts to grow local businesses and attract new ones.

Cooperative businesses by nature cooperate with one another. At Tri-County EMC, we continually share information and resources with the 25 other electric co-ops in the state and others in the U.S., as well as with the statewide organizations that we formed to supply us with wholesale power, equipment and services. Such sharing allows us to apply the best and most effective technology for our distribution systems.

A unique aspect of a cooperative is that when the business has met all its financial obligations, margins that remain are returned as credits to members according to their patronage.

We consider it our job to keep you informed, and to help you make smart energy choices. And above all, we make a point every day to show that you are a member of your cooperative, an owner who has a voice in how your business operates.

This is the cooperative difference.

How we rate

It should come as no surprise that members of electric cooperatives overall are more satisfied with the service they receive than customers of electric utilities that are owned by investors or city governments.

For the past 10 years, North Carolina’s Touchstone Energy cooperatives have joined in a wide-ranging survey that rates how satisfied members are about our services. Satisfaction is measured by the respected American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a joint effort by the University of Michigan Business School and the consulting firm CFI Group. For the survey ending February 2014, North Carolina’s cooperatives were among 70 cooperatives from 27 states and 14,500 residential co-op members surveyed. Results compared not only other electric cooperatives, but also ACSI data from other utilities.

How did we do? On a 100-point scale, North Carolina’s cooperatives received a mean score of 84 in overall satisfaction, compared to 82 for other electric cooperatives, 75 for investor-owned electric utilities, and 74 for municipal electric systems. (I have to brag here that Tri-County EMC tied with one other cooperative in the survey for the highest score of 89.)

The annual survey also measures how satisfied and how aware members are of specific services we provide. I thank those of you who participated in the latest survey and who will consider responding to surveys in the future. All the information helps us learn where we can do better. And believe me, we want to do everything we can to exceed your expectations.

About the Author

Mike Davis is general manager of Tri-County EMC, the Touchstone Energy cooperative based in Dudley serving nearly 26,000 member accounts in Wayne, Lenoir, northern Duplin and parts of Johnston, Jones, Sampson and Wilson counties.

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