The Grand Haven Board of Light and Power (BLP) announced the results of its FY2023 Customer Satisfaction Study, showing growth across most categories and leading national averages by over 10 percent. Catherine Veschi from GreatBlue Research Inc, a national customer research service, reported the study’s results to the Board on Thursday night. GreatBlue surveyed 400 residential customers and over 100 commercial customers at random using phone and digital survey tools.
“In almost every category, Grand Haven reported ratings well above the national average,” said Catherine Veschi, the research project manager from GreatBlue.
The BLP earned ratings above the national utility average for overall satisfaction, helpfulness of staff, and open and honest operations. Categories indicating the highest improvements between 2020 to 2022 were in business energy waste reduction programs (+11.1%), commercial customer communications (+9.5%), residential trust in reliable infrastructure (+7.3%), and residential community involvement (+7.4%).
“Each year, we look forward to the insights and opportunities from this study because they help us identify what areas in operations, service, and communications we are doing well, and what areas we should focus on for the year ahead,” said David Walters, general manager of the BLP.
The BLP saw a significant increase in awareness of its Green Energy Program which enables residents or businesses to purchase additional renewable energy above the BLP’s existing purchases.
All members enrolled in the Green Energy Program reported very high satisfaction rates. However, while almost 50% of residents are aware of the program, only 8% are enrolled. At the board meeting, Veschi recommended a shift in messaging around the Green Energy Program to share benefits and encourage greater participation.
Renee Molyneux, administrative services manager stated, “We are pleased to see an increase in residential awareness from 15.8% in 2021 to 49.1% in 2022. This shows our promotional efforts throughout 2022 are working, but we know there is always more we can do.”
Veschi said about the program, “Our recommendation is to not increase the amount of communication that’s done but to shift the communication so that it becomes more educational in nature. Really convey the benefits of the program and why folks should be enrolling.”
Molyneux and her team are evaluating other marketing avenues to promote the Green Energy Program. Promotions may include more mentions in “Plugged In,” the utility’s digital and print newsletter—a publication that’s recall rates rose to over 70% for residents in 2022.
While the survey did report a decrease in overall service satisfaction for both office and field staff, Veschi said she suspected the results were skewed by the Covid-19 pandemic:
“While it looks like [field staff] satisfaction declined, there’s also a very high frequency of ‘don’t know’ responses. Since the pandemic began, customers have been making transactions digitally. Their previous office experience may have been four or more years ago, making it difficult for folks to fully recall the experience.”
“When you remove the ‘don’t know’ responses, suddenly our satisfaction rates went up for both residential and commercial customers (93.6% and 92.6% respectively),” said Veschi.
The survey found only one other area for investigation—customer engagement in board meetings. The study indicated over 60% of residential and business customers were unaware of the ability to be involved in decision-making by participating in board meetings.
“There’s more we can be doing to ensure customers are aware of opportunities to engage with the board and share their input,” said Walters.
Over 25% of residential customers and 40% of commercial customers reported they were ‘unsure’ or ‘didn’t know’ they could come to board meetings. While the BLP reported seemingly low numbers in this category, Veschi was optimistic about the overall health of the utility.
“While the majority of customers at Grand Haven are not aware of these opportunities, what Grand Haven is doing as far as communication and outreach goes is definitely surpassing what’s been done on a national level,” said Veschi.
“Overall, we are very pleased with the findings from this year’s study. They demonstrate the strong impact our strategic initiatives are making toward improved satisfaction,” said Walters. “I am looking forward to translating these results into actionable strategies for the coming years.”
Download the complete GreatBlue Research Study Presentation here
American Public Power Association Article on March 28, 2023
Michigan Municipal Electric Association Article in the March “Currents” magazine, page 26.