By ANN THELEN
Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives is a national brand that helps its network of electric cooperatives across the country achieve outstanding member satisfaction. The organization accomplishes this by offering cutting-edge ideas for energy efficiency and a better home-and-family life – and benefit programs for co-op member-owners. You can learn more at touchstoneenergy.com.
We recently sat down with executive director Lynn Moore, who took over the reins of the organization in 2017. She shared details about how Touchstone Energy is hard at work for you and your cooperative – plus, she offered a look ahead at some exciting news for 2018.
Q: Let’s start with the basics. Tell us how the Touchstone Energy brand works to help Iowa’s cooperative member-owners.
Moore: Touchstone Energy is an alliance of 750 member-owned electric cooperatives in 46 states. It’s the brand name by which cooperatives identify and connect with as that alliance. Our co-ops collectively deliver power and energy solutions to more than 32 million members every day, and they strive to provide dependable electricity at a competitive cost to every member.
For member-owners in Iowa whose cooperative is a Touchstone Energy partner, it means your cooperative has access to service programs, resources and outreach tools that can be adapted to your community’s individual needs. Over the 80 years cooperatives have been delivering safe, reliable, affordable electricity to their member-owners, our fundamental purpose has remained the same. Today, co-ops go beyond that with interactive websites, broadband services, solar and wind resources – and we offer a host of collaborative tools to member cooperatives.
Q: What’s the purpose of Touchstone Energy?
Moore: Integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community – these four values are the foundation of what Touchstone Energy stands for and are at the core of the services cooperatives provide to members. We help our cooperatives tell the story of what the cooperative difference means to member-owners and how it’s at work in your community. The cooperative difference is the way we treat people, how we collaborate and how we build community.
Some people may not recognize or know the Touchstone Energy brand, yet they are very familiar with their electric cooperative. We’re working hard to bridge that gap and show that while you have the benefits of local ownership and decision making, you are also part of a national brand that is the gold standard for electric utility service. Our research shows that Touchstone Energy Cooperatives consistently rank 4 to 6 points higher in customer satisfaction surveys than our utility peers. In fact, electric cooperatives can be very proud to be the highest-rated utility group by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
Q: The phrase “The Power Of Human Connections” often appears with the Touchstone Energy logo. What does this mean?
Moore: Cooperatives understand the power of human connections among employees, directors and member-owners. These connections form our national network, working in communities across 47 states. It means that we can leverage economies of scale with our cooperatives to supply reliable, low-cost power to electric co-op member-owners across the country. Strong communities share more than just affordable electricity; they share the same values that connect us.
Q: Why is it important for co-op member-owners to know about Touchstone Energy?
Moore: Today, we have five generations of members in the workforce, which is more than we’ve ever had. Relationships are at the center, and member-owners want to know you are working together to minimize costs, maintain local control and provide convenience – things that continue to be valued the most by our member-owners.
Touchstone Energy shares the story of why electric cooperatives continue to be relevant. We give a nod to our humble beginnings, share what we’re doing today and illustrate where we’re headed in the future.
Q: Cooperatives exist in other areas too, such as food or grain, and it seems like the co-op model is on the rise. Tell us your thoughts.
Moore: Many people are receptive to the business model. The millennial generation is supporting the cooperative model on a regular basis by going to farmers’ markets, doing online shopping at stores such as Etsy, purchasing craft beer and many other examples. There is a resurgence of the entrepreneurial spirit in America, and that’s exactly what the cooperative business model represents: supporting your local communities, having a voice in the decision-making process and knowing the people you are doing business with on a regular basis.
Q: What is most gratifying for you about leading Touchstone Energy?
Moore: The people and the values cooperatives represent. I’ve met 30,000 electric cooperative employees across the country, and they are the reason our customer satisfaction numbers are high. They care about the people served by their cooperative, and it shows. Electric cooperatives are America’s largest utility network, serving 56 percent of the U.S. land mass and powering over 2 million miles of line. To be part of something local with hometown values that mirror my own, and yet, to be part of this large network, is incredible. Knowing that we are making a difference for a community of 2,000 or 200,000, regardless of its size or location, is what matters.
Q: It’s a special year for Touchstone Energy in 2018. What’s going on?
Moore: We’re celebrating our 20-year anniversary this year! Two decades ago, we started by creating awareness that each cooperative is part of something bigger, which empowered co-ops to do big things in small communities. Every year, we build on those early initiatives and add to our branded resources and tools to provide a roadmap to help every Touchstone Energy cooperative be their best. In turn, every community served by a Touchstone Energy Cooperative has the support to be the best it can be!
Ann Thelen is the owner of an Iowa-based public relations and communications firm that specializes in areas such as the electric utility industry, in which she’s worked for more than 17 years.