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Member satisfaction scores continue to improve

Members of Lorain-Medina Rural Electric Cooperative who were surveyed in the spring collectively gave the cooperative its highest consumer satisfaction rating to date. 
The cooperative conducts consumer satisfaction surveys annually, using the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Market Research Services. A total of 432 members were surveyed in May by phone and online. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent. 
The survey results were presented to the LMRE board of trustees at its September meeting by Janet Rehberg, marketing director of Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, the service organization that facilitated the surveys. 
The satisfaction results are included in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, a cross-industry measure of customer satisfaction in the U.S.    
Lorain-Medina scored an 87, up one point from the 2015 score. It was the fifth-highest score among the 22 Ohio cooperatives that participated in the 2016 survey. The average score among the Ohio cooperatives was 85. Nationwide, Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives — electric cooperatives that are members of a national alliance — collectively scored a 77. Investor-owned utilities like FirstEnergy scored 72. Municipal utilities, similar to Oberlin, Wellington, Grafton, Lodi, and Seville, scored 68. 
Seventy-seven percent of the member surveys gave the cooperative a consumer satisfaction rating of 9 or 10. That is up from 71 percent in 2015. 
 “Certainly, we’re pleased with the results,” General Manager Markus Bryant said. “Just two years ago we scored an 81. To raise our score six points is significant. As a cooperative, consumer satisfaction is critical to our success because the members own the cooperative. We need to deliver.”
Bryant said the board takes these consumer satisfaction surveys and member ratings seriously. The cooperative is now conducting the surveys quarterly so it can react to trends faster, rather than waiting a full year to see if dissatisfaction trends are developing. 
The cooperative received excellent ratings in 11 of 18 categories. Using a scale of 1 to 5, LMRE scored 4.5 or higher for resolving issues or problems; having friendly, courteous, and highly trained employees; being easy to reach, minimizing long outages; restoring power quickly, minimizing blinks or momentary outages; having convenient payment options and an accurate and understandable bill; environmental concern; and community support. 
“It’s gratifying to see the members recognize and appreciate that we have friendly and courteous employees who are highly trained. Without a well-trained workforce, we can’t deliver the high level of service that our members have become accustomed to receiving,” Bryant said. 
The cooperative’s outage record remains strong. Six times in the past 10 years, the average total amount of time consumers were without power for the year was below two hours. “It’s apparent our consistent tree-trimming program and strong system maintenance programs have been noticed by our members,” Bryant said. “And the ability to restore power faster with the use of computer technology also has been a huge help.”  
LMRE’s lower ratings were for keeping members informed on the status of outages (rated just below the 4-point good rating at 3.98) and charging reasonable rates (rated good at 4.04). 
The cooperative uses Facebook and its website to provide outage updates when there are 50 or more outage calls.
Rates have stabilized over the past three years after a period of annual rate adjustments to help cover the $1 billion investment in environmental controls at Ohio cooperatives’ coal-fired facilities. Since 2013, rates have increased an average of only 1 percent each year.  

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