National Lineworker Appreciation Day is this month, and many co-ops are celebrating this group of frontline workers. I recently had the opportunity to spend time with line superintendents in Minnesota, and we discussed various aspects of their roles and the fact that, when a major storm hits, lineworkers often are most visible.

During storms, they are trusted heroes in our communities. They’re active out in the field, making them a primary member touchpoint. My co-op, NorVal Electric, has 19 employees, 10 of whom are lineworkers. This means our personal contact with members often comes from them.

You might not think a lineworker has much in common with a member services representative, but every employee who wears your cooperative’s logo is an ambassador for the co-op and a key liaison.

It’s essential that we make sure all co-op staff are prepared to be the best possible resource for members.

We can set them up for success by ensuring that they are engaged in the co-op’s strategic vision, are able to effectively communicate about the cooperative difference and are informed about the products and services the co-op offers. That’s especially true for new services that your co-op may be offering.

Members expect more from their co-op today. They want instant answers, easy solutions and personalized service. They expect each and every employee to be an expert on the co-op and its business.

Fruitful member engagement depends on your team’s abilities to be reliable resources and communicate honestly, consistently and knowledgeably—in short, to meet member needs and expectations.

Employees have the power to greatly influence how your consumers-members perceive and experience your co-op. So, it’s not a question of if your staff will influence member relationships, but how they will influence them.

Communicating the cooperative difference has always been an important role for co-op staff. Leaders have the obligation to prepare their employees to promote the co-op’s mission so they can be your cooperative’s greatest ambassadors.