INDIAN WELLS, Calif.—Electric cooperatives frequently assess the loyalty of their residential consumers with surveys, member services interaction and even through conversations at church or in the grocery store. But what about key account members--can a co-op gauge the trust and support they have among their most significant commercial and industrial accounts?

It turns out that many of the ways co-ops get feedback from individual members is also applicable to their key accounts. That’s the message speakers delivered at a Jan. 31 breakout on loyalty and satisfaction at Touchstone Energy® Cooperative’s 2024 NEXT Conference.

The national Survey on the Cooperative Difference and the ACSI® Member Satisfaction Survey, offered through Touchstone Energy to members, help co-ops quantify how they’re viewed by their members across the board.

These surveys provide “a process of getting feedback from your members, which is the only way you can generate continued and sustainable loyalty,” said Touchstone Energy Executive Director Jana Adams. “Find out what matters to your key account members. They might be loyal, but if you don’t ask, you won’t know if they’re satisfied.”

This year, Touchstone Energy will unveil a new initiative to help co-ops master the basics of building loyalty specifically among key accounts.

Called S.E.L.F. for “Satisfaction leads to Engagement, which leads to Loyalty and a bright Future,” the program “gives co-ops a model for continuous improvement. It all starts with measuring satisfaction and understanding its drivers for members of your co-op,” Adams said.

Lindsey Davis of survey partner Cooperative Insights noted that one key finding of the 2023 Survey on the Cooperative Difference, a national poll of more than 9,000 co-op consumers, determined that the foundation of engagement is strong performance of core services: reliable electricity, prompt handling of problems and fairness in interactions.

“To build engaged and loyal members, you first have to establish trust, and that starts with delivering on core services,” said Davis, director of marketing and market research at Raleigh-based North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives and Cooperative Insights, a market research subsidiary of the statewide organization.

Another resource is NRECA’s Member Loyalty Index, a five-question poll developed by two co-op communicators in Michigan. The MLI “is highly correlated with member satisfaction and measures emotional attachment to the co-op,” said Ginny Gettemeier Beauchemin, NRECA’s senior managing director of consulting services.

“We typically see that those with an MLI score of 90 or above have a higher level of satisfaction with their co-op, are more likely to attend co-op events, have a higher awareness of co-op programs and services and read the communications provided by the co-op,” Gettemeier Beauchemin said.

While data from these surveys can help gauge satisfaction among key accounts, breakout speakers said that discussing findings one-on-one can strengthen those relationships.

“Be member-first in your communication, planning and problem solving,” Gettemeier Beauchemin said. “While the co-op shouldn’t focus its decisions around one key account, make sure you understand the impacts of decisions and communicate how their needs are considered in decisions—just like it does with consumers.”