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United Cooperative Services News

Topping Off Great Consumer Experience

A lineman goes above and beyond, illustrating United’s most recent 91 score for member satisfaction

Something wasn’t right in the pump house.

For two months, Dick Hodgson, a retiree who lives in Bono, had intermittent power loss to the water pump and outbuildings on his property.

He still might have had the problem, he said, had it not been for a United Cooperative Services lineman who discovered outdated connections on an overhead power line on his side of the meter that other electrical contractors had missed.

Hodgson said that an initial inspection by United could not find a cause for the intermittent failures on the United side of the line, and the inspecting lineman suggested that Hodgson should call an electrician to look at the lines on his side of the meter.

Hodgson said the electrical contractors he called claimed they couldn’t find a problem on his side of the line, and the problem continued.

A United lineman came back after the final incident sent his home, pump house and barns into darkness. Trey Carper, a journeyman lineman at the cooperative’s Burleson office, climbed four poles swaying in 40-mph winds on a bitter-cold February night to fix four aging connectors and restore Hodgson’s power.

“It was probably the best kind of service I’d received from any kind of utility in a long time,” Hodgson said. “After more than 24 hours without water for my home or my animals and waiting for a full day for the second contractor to show up and give up, in desperation I called United Co-op that evening. Within about 10 minutes of my call, a young man named Trey drove up my driveway in his United truck. Within a couple hours or so, he had found and solved the problem everyone else had missed. He went above and beyond in taking care of a problem that was making life very uncomfortable for us.”

Carper said he remembered driving up to Hodgson’s house around 11 p.m.

“I think I remember him saying several people came out to help him, but no electrician would help him,” Carper said. “They went out there to advise him, but said there was nothing they could do. When I came, they were dipping 5-gallon buckets out of the swimming pool for their animals. It was late, and they were really in a bind. I found the problem. I had the stuff that could fix it. So, I fixed it.”

After Carper completed the job, Hodgson said he felt compelled to offer the lineman a tip, but Carper refused.

“A week later, the electrical contractor called me back and said he could come out to solve the problem, but it would be quite a bit of work,” Hodgson said. “I said, ‘define quite a bit.’ He said $15,000. I said, “‘The kid from the co-op came out here and fixed it with four little connectors. No thanks.’”

Carper said he fixed Hodgson’s problem because he likes to help members and believes in giving exceptional service. The anecdote is one of many that, when compiled, explain United’s recent high ranking for member satisfaction.

For the first quarter of 2017, United Cooperative Services recently scored a 91 out of a possible 100 from The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

The ACSI is a partnership of the University of Michigan and the international consulting firm, CFI Group. It provides a uniform and independent measure of consumer experience with 225 of the leading corporations in America.

“For the past three quarters, we’ve hit a 90 or above, and we are extremely proud,” said Cameron Smallwood, CEO of United. “It’s a great testimonial to follow our updated mission statement, and it seems our members recognize that we mean it when we say we will provide the exceptional service we have promised them. We can always achieve more, and we will continue to strive for the top. Staying at or near the top of this or any other professional assessment is a difficult task, so this by no means signals we’re done with our job here. However, we can again say that we are industry leaders in providing excellent service, and I see that with our employees every day across the organization.”

Collectively, ACSI participants represent 66 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product according to the report. TSE Services and Touchstone Energy Cooperatives field four core questions from the ACSI on behalf of cooperatives participating in its Member Satisfaction Tracking System.

TSE Services is a cooperatively owned market research organization founded in 1998 by North Carolina’s electric cooperatives. Touchstone Energy Cooperatives represents a nationwide alliance of member-owned electric co-ops.

Up to 74 of the nation’s co-ops participate in the program with TSE Services, according to ACSI organizers. Responses to these core survey questions are submitted to the ACSI for scoring, allowing participating cooperatives to compare their performance with the leading corporations across the economic spectrum. Each cooperative receives an overall ACSI satisfaction score along with other data.

During the same time period, the report found cooperatives averaged a score of 78 overall, while municipal utilities and investor owned utilities averaged an overall satisfaction rating of 74.