Member satisfaction with KIUC lower than that found nationally

LIHU’E – The Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative’s first-ever member survey revealed an overall satisfaction rate lower than most Mainland electric co-ops, and even lower than investor-owned electric companies.

And though the overall satisfaction rating of 7.79 on a 10-point scale is lower than both the 8.50 goal set by many service industries and 8.80 rating among Mainland electrical cooperatives, the survey revealed few surprises, KIUC representatives said.

“That’s OK,” said Faye Akasaki, KIUC vice president of member services, regarding the co-op’s overall satisfaction rating taken from a survey of 400 residential members and 125 commercial members.

“We needed to know where we stand,” and the survey results give co-op leaders “a baseline” to build on, she said.

Several members said the co-op is too new to allow them to evaluate their satisfaction, though three of 10 respondents gave the co-op perfect 10s, meaning they are totally satisfied with KIUC.

Rates, value, and electric service were identified as items those who responded to the telephone survey would like addressed first, Akasaki explained.

Educating members, that they can vote for local directors and are eligible for rebates, will increase member satisfaction, she said.

While most of those surveyed understand that the former investor-owned utility Kauai Electric is now a nonprofit co-op, many didn’t understand that the customers (members) of KIUC are also owners of the co-op, Akasaki continued.

Where rebates are concerned (called “patronage capital” in co-op jargon), just 34 percent of commercial respondents, and 52 percent of residential respondents, thought that’s where co-op profits (“margins” for nonprofits) should go.

Over half (55 percent) of those who responded to the residential survey said they would like to see margins used to underground utility lines, something half of those who responded to the commercial survey agreed with.

Some 61 percent of the commercial respondents said co-op leaders should aggressively seek to develop renewable-energy sources, compared to 49 percent of residential respondents.

Next month, co-op officials will begin sending out invitations to members to participate in discussion groups to further fine-tune co-op strategic directions and get more detailed member information on what they like and don’t like about their electric cooperative.

The survey, annual for now, will be used to identify opportunities, and educate members about what it means to belong to a member-owned electric co-op.

Of around 30,000 KIUC members on Kaua’i, some 21,000 are residential customers. The residential customer profile indicates the average member is 51 years of age, lives in a three-person-or-smaller household, has an annual household income of $48,000, and has an average electric bill of $110 a month.

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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