We're Still Here, And Always Will Be

Published by Bob Hance on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 in Community

“Business as usual” came to a screeching halt in March as the realities of the global coronavirus pandemic set it. By the time you’re reading this, I hope we’ve figured out our new normal, but at the time I’m writing it we’re still operating within the parameters of a statewide Executive Order.

In the early days of the pandemic we had many long, tough conversations about how to best serve our 40,000 electric, propane and telecom customers, while doing our part to “flatten the curve”. As part of the critical infrastructure, we had to reinvent our standard operating procedures to implement safe and effective ways to serve and support our customers while keeping those customers and our employees safe.

If there’s one thing we’re really good at, it’s reinvention.

From a customer service perspective, we haven’t missed a beat. We closed our lobbies in mid-March, and late in the month, after testing systems and equipment, we moved most of our Solutions Agents to a work-from-home status. We kept a small presence in each office to manage drive-through and drop box payments, dispatch crews, and process daily mail. The rest of our team responded to your calls, emails, and online chats from the safety of their homes. Call volume was higher than normal given the circumstances, and because we had more agents on the phones we were efficient and responsive.

We made some significant changes to our operations protocol. Our normal safety culture reached new heights as personal protective equipment and social distancing procedures became part of our daily norm. We had considerably less customer-requested construction work on the electric side during this time, allowing us to mobilize our crews for some much-needed maintenance work on lines that have been particularly problematic. So, while we weren’t actively building, we were working to improve your service experience.

Because of the face-to-face contact required with fiber installations and new propane service, we had to curtail those activities until mid-May. However, we reimagined our fiber process and nearly 200 customers conducted a self-installation using our video resource with an installation technician on site to answer questions and support from a safe distance. We also kept propane tanks full and responded to gas leaks and other emergencies.

We also tried to support the community in meaningful ways during this extraordinarily challenging time, providing care packages to numerous healthcare facilities in late March to show appreciation for our front-line workers, and offering support to agencies helping with food insecurity. We also set up several free public Wi-Fi access points, leveraging our fiber infrastructure to help students, teachers and others with business needs navigate this challenging time.

Was this ideal? Absolutely not. Nothing about pandemic response was ideal. But we showed up, every day, ready to provide a level of service and support to make your life and experience as comfortable and convenient as possible. We’re still here, and always will be.

About The Author

Bob Hance

Bob Hance is the President/CEO of Midwest Energy & Communications, and a 45-year veteran of the electric cooperative industry. Within the industry he has earned a reputation as a leader and a trailblazer, and has been nationally recognized for his efforts to bridge the digital divide as a tir

See more by this author