By Susan Simmons, CCC, CKAE, Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation

member_satisfactionToday, cooperative communicators are challenged as never before. We have this amazing story to tell that includes each and every consumer we serve; however, our demographics are changing rapidly along with what feels like a new communication avenue every day.

So, what’s a communicator to do? How do we possibly “CONNECT” with and satisfy the wide variety of member segments electric co-ops serve today, such as Millennials, Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers, seniors, families with and without children, single parents, farmers and ranchers, executives, retirees, year-round vs. seasonal households, etc. — all with very different expectations?

Member satisfaction and member engagement are similar concepts on the surface, and many people use these terms interchangeably. However, satisfaction only covers the basic concerns and needs of our members (e.g. reliable electricity at a reasonable price). It is a good starting point, but it usually stops short of what really matters to the growing segments of members previously mentioned.

Webster’s definition of engagement, on the other hand, is an emotional involvement or commitment; something that engages. In simple terms, satisfaction has more to do with how our members think about their cooperative, while engagement has more to do with how they feel about their cooperative.

For example, SATISFACTION allows us to knock on the door and “pitch our message” along with every other voice on social media, the internet, radio, print, TV and any other communication channel available today.

ENGAGEMENT, on the other hand, gets us an invitation inside along with a cup of coffee at the kitchen table to listen and talk about how we can help each other.

Every available communication tool cooperative communicators have will be needed to get that “invitation.” Take time to drill into the research and find out how these various segments prefer to receive their information. For some, it will be digital marketing. For others, it might be social media, your website or a text message. Your monthly newsletter will continue to be the “go to” source of information for others. There’s no magic “1, 2, 3 and you’re done” formula anymore.

It’s about emotional attachments. Find out what’s important to your members and connect with them by letting them know how your cooperative fits into their vision of a better world. Make sure your member-owners know you’ve heard their concerns and understand what’s important to them for engagement to take place so they will hear “other” messages – now and in the future.