You are a member, not just a customer
Article was added on Friday, July 01, 2016
That's the co-op difference!
Many businesses use the word "member" to describe their customers.
Places like Sam's Club or Costco and even American Express like to
refer to their customers as members. You pay a fee to buy their
goods and services, but that is really all you get for the
"membership." No right to vote for the Board of Directors or to
participate in any meaningful way in the organization.
In cooperatives like Santee Electric, membership
really does mean something more than just the right to buy
electricity. Co-ops of all types are founded on seven cooperative
principles that give us guidance and strategic direction.
Membership also gives you rights as an owner of this co-op.
Brett Fairbairn is the director of the Center for
the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan in
Canada. He makes the case that member relations is not justpartof
what co-ops should be doing, but in fact is the fundamental core
business of the cooperative.
He further lays out the three strategic
concepts that any co-op must get right in order to survive and
Santee Electric Cooperative is connected to you. There is a
business relationship that serves you (the member) and the co-op.
Since co-ops are solely owned by people in the community, they have
a mutual interest to ensure that both the co-op and the member do
well and prosper.
As an owner of the co-op, you have a right to know
how it operates and how decisions are made that directly impact
you. If the co-op is transparent and combines this trait with
integrity and fairness, it will build trust with the members.
In this case, cognition is best defined as how your
co-op thinks. It includes the current and historical identity, the
mission and the sense of shared values with co-op members.
Research, education and training are critical functions that Santee
Electric Cooperative must conduct on an ongoing basis to ensure
that we always have the best information to make decisions.
The cooperative business model is the best one on
earth, but like any enterprise, it is up to the human beings who
work at the co-op, who serve on the board and the members like you
to ensure that the principles and values do not fade over
First and foremost, Santee Electric Cooperative strives to be
thought of as a member-owned cooperative that gives you the best
value of any utility. If we succeed, our community thrives and you
will always value being a member - not a customer.
Robert G. Ardis III, P.E.
President and Chief Executive Officer
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