I can’t believe that 2015 is here already. The New Year always brings a lot of ideas and resolutions to the table. Your utility doesn’t have to worry about losing weight, exercising more, or learning a new skill, but there are resolutions relevant to the utility business. One resolution that might be on your utilities list is to be more visible.
Utility companies have used public awareness campaigns for years to promote their value to customers and shareholders. Rural Cooperatives created Touchtone Energy to show their commitment to the members. Investor owned companies also run TV ads and include consumer information with billing statements. These campaigns focus on the quality of service that they provide and the people that make it work. I believe that Public Power needs to step up and promote its value.
The consumer world has evolved from buying commodities face to face in an actual store to an online and automated system where there is no interaction. This lack of human contact can be the downfall of a product when there are problems. Maybe the product that they purchased didn’t fit the application and it failed. The customer might feel that they purchased an inferior product. The problem may have been that there was no one to lead the customer in the right direction. The products that you sell your customers are totally different than this example, but your customers might get the wrong idea about you without someone to tell them anything different.
The quality of what you provide should speak volumes and in many cases it does. The lights are on and rates are low, shouldn’t that be enough? If that is the case, why are some utilities looked at as being a liability? Why are some citizens requesting a for sale sign to be put out in front of the utility? Has anyone educated them about the value that you provide to them and the community?
Many public utilities give communities a boost with financial assistance that would be absent without them. Customer service and outage response is very fast because the people that provide services also live in the communities that they serve. I’m sure that you can come up with several other points specific to your community. There are sources available to utilities to create a program.
American Public Power Association (APPA) has several resources on their website. Many of these products have been produced by public power utilities and are available for use by others. The programs focus on safety, conservation, future investment, and many other positive subjects. Programs can reach beyond your current customers and help to attract new ones. Utility sponsored events and open houses can help educate rate payers about how the utility works.
Some of you already hold events and open houses to showcase your hometown utility. It would be great to see more utilities doing this same thing. Set some time aside this year to promote public power and its numerous advantages. Whether you choose to use TV spots, radio ads, bill stuffers, or any of the other resources available, make it your goal to get the message out.