In the early days of mining gold, miners rubbed their ore against a small tablet of slate or schist — a “touchstone” to test the purity of the gold they worked so hard to bring to the surface.
When retail electric competition began coming into vogue in the late 1990s, potentially putting smaller electric cooperatives in a difficult position against larger utilities, co-ops across the country needed a collective brand to raise awareness among their members. They decided that the symbol of the touchstone was perfect — it was, after all, what distinguished the genuine article from worthless lookalikes.
The result was Touchstone Energy, which has grown in its 20 years from a relatively small group into a nationwide alliance of 750 electric cooperatives. Its mission has also evolved as it has grown, according to Doug Miller, vice president of statewide services at Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, who serves as president of the Touchstone Energy board of directors.
“Everything Touchstone Energy does is aimed at helping electric cooperatives to better engage and serve their members,” Miller says. “Even the smallest electric cooperative can leverage the power of a huge network with a national identity to access services that foster a positive and productive member relationship.”
Among the programs Touchstone offers in its quest to help co-ops provide the best service — the gold standard in service — are training programs for co-op employees in areas such as service excellence, member engagement, and energy advising. If you visit your co-op’s website or pay your bill online, there’s a good chance that website was built through through the co-op’s partnership with Touchstone Energy.
“Every Ohio cooperative is part of this national network of electric cooperatives,” Miller says. “By working together, Touchstone Energy cooperatives stand as a source of power and information to their 32 million member-owners every day.”
- A few of the services Touchstone Energy provides:
- The Co-op Connections Card, which provides member discounts at local and national businesses
- Research on member satisfaction, renewable energy, and the cooperative difference
- High-level customer-service training for all co-op employees
- Website templates, advertising material, and energy efficiency educational materials
- A best-practices library that leverages the national network successes