In the age of online shopping, streaming services and instant gratification, it is vital that cooperatives practice good consumer engagement.

“Consumer engagement—humanizing the relationship between a person and company by creating emotionally engaging experiences—can be challenging,” according to a recent CFC report on the topic. “In a choice-packed marketplace, enhancing a consumer’s experience with personalized, thoughtful service delivers long-lasting results.”

The guide for CFC members, “Why Engaging Consumers Tops the List of Utility Goals in 2020,” offers an overview of this emerging field, a five-step action plan to boost engagement and case studies on how other cooperatives have successfully engaged their consumers.

Consumer Expectations Are on the Rise

According to a 2019 Salesforce survey of consumer expectations, 73 percent of respondents say an extraordinary experience with one company raises their expectations for other companies while 84 percent say the experience a company provides is just as important as its products and services.

Cooperatives are not immune to these trends. Tony Anderson, CEO at Cherryland Electric Cooperative in Michigan, has found that adjusting to member expectations is a constant. “What members tell us, and what clicks with them, are things we need to respond to if we’re going to stay relevant.”

Changing Demographics and Relationships Matter

The publication, which discusses how open conversations and personalized service can strengthen cooperatives, offers some key takeaways:

  1. Cooperatives care about consumer engagement. The age of providing services “for” consumers is ending. Today’s consumers expect more, and cooperatives now must work “with” consumers to ensure these growing expectations are met.

  2. Demographics are changing. The socioeconomic, racial and generational makeup of the United States is shifting. Think about how your cooperative membership might be different from what it was even a decade ago and ask what it means for your consumer engagement.

  3. Technology allows new ways to listen to and communicate with your members. While there is still value in analogue communication, cooperatives are exploring new ways to communicate with members in real-time. Outage updates are being posted to social media and cooperatives are using online forums to gauge member satisfaction.

  4. Relationships are not static. Every new interaction is a way to build on consumer satisfaction. Consistent messaging and high-quality service are ways to guarantee that your cooperative’s relationship with its members is a positive one.