The Challenge of Engagement.

Kevin Gunn, Former Chairman of the Missouri Public Service Commission

Kevin Gunn, Former Chairman of the Missouri Public Service Commission

Sponsored and written by Kevin Gunn

Former Chairman of the Missouri Public Service Commission
The utility world is much more complicated, complex and challenging today than it has been in decades. Consumers are faced with uncertain economic conditions, rising infrastructure costs, environmental challenges and a regulatory structure that is all but inaccessible to the lay person. The factors in this regulatory environment can be mind boggling even for seasoned professionals, which makes it even more imperative for utility companies, public service commissions and consumer advocates to actively engage the consumer.

We at the Missouri Public Service Commission always strive to engage our consumers positively. We webcast all of our Agenda meetings as well as our significant hearings. However, these all require the consumer to actively seek out engagement with the Commission. Recognizing that shortfall, the Missouri Public Service Commission has instituted several programs designed to maximize consumer engagement.

First, we established PSConnection magazine. PSConnection is written and produced in-house by MOPSC staff. It is designed to give consumers, in an easily accessible format, information on rates, energy efficiency, safety, and many other current topics. Published three times a year, we have copies available at every public event. The magazine’s articles are also available online as a resource.

The MOPSC also sponsors Utility Days. On Utility Day, the MOPSC will gather all of the investor owned utilities in a particular service territory as well as the Office of Public Counsel in a high traffic area such as a shopping mall. The utilities provide billing and other service assistance as well as information on current promotions or programs the utility offers. Our Office of Public Counsel also participates and provides information on the functions and duties of the office. The concept is to have the utilities interact with the consumer outside of a local public hearing for a rate increase.

It is impossible today to provide engagement with the public without some presence on social media.  The MOPSC actively maintains a presence on Facebook as well as Twitter.  Unlike more passive engagements, Facebook and Twitter need to be constantly updated. If the accounts become stale, they will lose relevancy quickly. The Commission updates the pages as needed and has used Twitter to warn of impending storm events or to provide severe weather tips.

The above are only examples of what the MOPSC has done. Consumer engagement is an active process and is one where creativity is a must. Although many of the institutions in the utility sector are singular and do not have typical needs for marketing, it is through consumer engagement that our processes are improved upon.  By providing as much information as possible to consumers you can assist them in making well informed energy choices. Consumer engagement must be dynamic. It must have the ability to adapt to new ways of communication as well as provide information in a manner that the consumer wants.  In Missouri we have found that a more engaged consumer makes the complex world a little easier to navigate.