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Member Services Conference Reminds Co-ops of Cooperation

November 2, 2015

Electric cooperatives in Texas have for decades dealt with weather, regulation and competition hurdles, but with the rise of new technology and an era of increasingly hyperconnected members, the challenges faced by member services staff are greater than ever.

That was the message Texas Electric Cooperatives President/CEO Mike Williams delivered to the 87 cooperative leaders at the 44th Annual TEC Member Services Conference, which provided panels, seminars and discussions on topics such as social media, safety messaging, emerging trends and technologies, held in October.

"Back in the day, when people's bills got high, they'd come see you," Williams said. "But today, obviously it's a little bit different. They don't just come see you. They might not see you at all. They'll get on the Internet."

Williams pointed attendees toward Cooperative Principle No. 6—Cooperation Among Cooperatives—as a path toward facing and conquering these challenges together. A panel discussion on member unrest was part of that strategy, focusing on dealing with social media-based unrest.

Co-ops also are finding ways to leverage social media for their benefit. Touchstone Energy Cooperatives' Anne Harvey spoke about finding creative ways to explore the cooperative purpose and community benefits by creating content and tapping into Touchstone Energy's archives. Melissa Segrest and Joe Stafford of Bluebonnet EC, whose Lineman's Lingo video claimed fame online, spoke about debunking social media myths, addressing members' concerns online and creating videos that unite members and employees for positive discussion—and maybe a laugh.

Eric Craven, TEC vice president of government relations, discussed the regulations scene, and Charlie Hemmeline, of the Texas Solar Power Association, spoke on solar growth.

Other talks focused on geothermal technology, peak load management, competition, credit card industry compliance, key accounts, publishing design tips, the cooperative purpose and the Government-in-Action Youth Tour.

"Resource with everybody here," said Catherine Poppe of Fayette EC, who joined a panel discussion on Youth Tour.

"This group can give you so many ideas."