​​​​​​By: Nell McCauley, SEDC

When looking closely at cooperativ​​​es, the world is relativity small, and members often refer to and rely on the opinions of other cooperative members. Word of mouth spreads exceptional member service, as well as less-than-outstanding service. When members receive excellent service, they naturally tend to recommend or stay with a company to fulfill future needs.

Increasing member expectations and requests for choice has led to retail choice in some states, and many other states are considering it. Whether your state offers retail choice or not, exceeding member expectations is in the best interest of all cooperatives. Here are three key reasons why investing in exceptional member service is an investment in your long-term success.

Differentiates you from the investor-owned utilities

Member service should exceed expectations because it may be the only factor that separates your cooperative from another utility. Even if all aspects of your operations are equal – the things cooperatives do differently can and will make you stand out in the eyes of members.

Be different in as many positive ways as possible. Be memorable for the right reasons. Be cheerful when dealing with all members, no matter what sort of day they have had or how angry they may be that day. Positively handling member complaints and making an effort to go the extra mile at every opportunity will help members be more satisfied with your service. Having this loyal member-base is also vital in a time of crisis. Members’ defense and opinions of the cooperative are so much more powerful, especially on social media.

Creates loyal members

Having a base of loyal members is priceless. Exceeding their expectations on a regular basis is the best way to satisfy them and retain their loyalty. If you provide excellent member service at every opportunity, they’re more likely to defend you when the opportunity arises because you’re improving their quality of life.

Loyal members are much easier to service because they’re more forgiving when inevitably there is an occasional problem, or even a crisis. We often forget about our loyal members if they are paying their bills each month, but it’s vital that cooperatives remain ever-vigilant to all member needs, not just the squeaky wheels.

Word of mouth is powerful

If your member service experience exceeds expectations and a member is impressed, it is a convincing reason for members to tell friends about their experience, or even encourage them to choose to be served by a cooperative. It can continue like a domino effect. Think of the impact if a realtor tells a prospective buyer that they should consider purchasing a home on cooperative lines because they offer better service. Powerful statements and testimonials to a cooperative’s exceptional member service, like from a realtor, is invaluable.

It is never fun to talk about problems, but they can be an excellent opportunity to provide a positive member experience if handled correctly. Word of mouth is the most potent, yet cheapest, form of advertising available. People will share how you make them feel -- so it is essential to create positive experience through member service.​