The adage, "You can't improve what you don't measure" is what led NIPCO to begin the practice of surveying their Class A Members, beginning in the fall of 2015. Member Satisfaction Surveys are conducted every two years and measures the generation and transmission cooperative's performance as it delivers on its mission and goals.
In preparation for strategic planning in 2016, NIPCO leadership determined that the best way to shape its ongoing service to its Class A members was to ask them, "How are we doing?"
A basic survey was deployed during the fall of 2015. Members were asked about NIPCO's existing programs and services, how those services were being fulfilled, if those services were still relevant to meet the needs of consumer members, and responsiveness of NIPCO staff. While these discussions had been conducted, informally, between NIPCO and its member systems for decades, a more formalized method to establish and measure performance metrics had never been done. The 2015 survey was developed, deployed, and analyzed by NIPCO's Member Relations & Development Manager, Angela Catton. It was basic but effective in providing a blueprint for NIPCO's strategic planning.
Once NIPCO's goals and initiatives were finalized in the spring of 2016, the 2017 Member Satisfaction Survey was expanded to measure NIPCO's effectiveness on delivering against them. This time, NIPCO contracted with a third party research firm, Research Services, LLC, to develop, deploy, tabulate, and report the results. To encourage open and honest feedback from the membership, survey responses were kept anonymous. The results from the 2017 surveys determined that the NIPCO membership was satisfied, overall, with NIPCO's service and, while, ratings were generally positive across most services and programs, a few gaps in service or underperforming programs were identified.
NIPCO staff got to work. Over the course of the next year and a half, NIPCO met regularly with its members to improve those underperforming areas relative to economic development and member services. "Pulling the rug back, together, and talking about programs that have been perceived by members as lower in value has helped us to strengthen our partnership with our members," explained Catton. "NIPCO is a service-driven organization and we serve as a resource for our Class A members. We listened to them. I feel we have all grown through this process of open communication and our shared goal to improve services to those who live in western Iowa. The results from the 2019 survey reflect that our member cooperatives appreciated that approach."
The 2019 NIPCO Member Satisfaction Survey was deployed in October of 2019 by Research Services, LLC, in the same manner as the 2017 survey. Overall, respondents indicated improved performance by NIPCO across all member services and economic development programs as compared to the 2017 survey. "However," Catton stated, "Those programs that show declining value are of no surprise and are currently being addressed by NIPCO staff and members."
Incentivizing the adoption of more electric vehicles in western Iowa and brainstorming on ways to better promote awareness of energy efficiency rebates and economic development programs were identified as opportunities for growth. Conversely, NIPCO members ranked the cooperative high in areas of rate competitiveness, policies that support distributed generation, the execution of NIPCO's long-term replacement plan, load management, support by NIPCO staff, and communication transparency with its membership.
"In a time when there seems to be a growing mistrust in our industry, the fact that our members appreciate the value we give them through our core services means we are delivering on our mission," said Matt Washburn, NIPCO Executive Vice President and General Manager, "We are an open book to our members and we work hard to gain their trust. As a cooperative family, that trust is the foundation of the value we provide to our members."
Washburn continues, "Our industry is always changing and the needs of consumer members are becoming more diversified. The only way we can continue to be an effective resource to our members is to continue to have an open and ongoing dialogue and to ask them what they need."
NIPCO plans to continue to survey its Class A members, with the next survey expected in 2021.