FFPC discusses customer survey results and what’s to come

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

Fort Frances Power Corporation (FFPC) is enjoying record high customer satisfaction, and is poised to bring its customer base into the future they need.

Following a semi-regular customer engagement survey the FFPC released last year, CEO Joerg Ruppenstein said the corporation has learned quite a bit from its customers, including how they feel the corporation is doing as a public service, as well as how the FFPC can better serve customer’s needs.

“We used Survey Monkey as our vehicle, we ran an ad in the Times and sent out notices to any e-billing customers,” Ruppenstein said.

“We had 316 respondents total, and then not all respondents answered each and every question, but we went thought it and this is a little bit of the analytics.”

Ruppenstein noted that the total number of customers who utilize FFPC is 3,751, making the 316 people who responded to the survey roughly 10 per cent of the total user base, an amount Ruppenstein said is a statistically significant number, and a big enough sample size to extrapolate data from. Additionally, while the survey has historically gathered more respondents, that was in part due to a campaign that saw survey links included as inserts for customer’s electricity bills, which is no longer as viable considering the large number of customers who have switched to paperless billing. To promote the survey and encourage the public to take part, the FFPC includes everyone who completes the survey into a draw for a prize. This year’s winner was Nick Kawulia, who was chosen and received an electric pellet grill.

One of the biggest takeaways from the survey results is the fact that almost all respondents to the survey noted that they were satisfied with the services provided by the FFPC, a number which is impressive by any stretch, but also bodes well for the corporation going forward.

“It was 303 people were satisfied, and one person unsatisfied, which is phenomenal and works out to a 99.7 per cent satisfaction rate,” Ruppenstein said.

“We’re very happy with that. The significance of that one is we get a scorecard issued to us every year by our regulator, the Ontario Energy Board, and this particular question is how we measure that metric. This is going to show up on our scorecard, so we’re going to get a 99.7.”

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) Scorecard is used to track and show comprehensive performance information for each electricity utility in Ontario, according to the OEB website, and the information from the scorecard also helps those utilities to operate effectively, as well as to ensure that the utilities are providing services and pursuing projects that benefit and are supported by their customer-base.

According to the OEB’s Consolidated Scorecard for 2021, FFPC has one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the province, trailing behind only Atikokan Hydro Inc. in terms of numbered percentage, though some other utilities in the province grade themselves on a letter scale (A-F) and so can’t directly be compared. FFPC’s dedicated scorecard, which collects the results dating back to 2017, shows that the satisfaction the FFPC customer base has in the utility has only increased over the years, from 89.3 per cent in the 2017 survey.

Another one of the more noteworthy results from the customer survey has to do with FFPC’s strategic investment into the construction of a secondary transmission supply in order to achieve what Ruppenstein called a “dual electricity supply network,” or DESN. Ruppenstein explained that the DESN would help to eliminate “loss of supply” outages for customers on the FFPC network, and that the survey results help to bolster both the FFPC’s confidence as well as future applications to the province and energy regulators.

“That’s something we’re actively working on,” he said.

“As most customers are aware now, on August 20, we will be losing our supply of electricity from Hydro One, and because we’re only supplied from one circuit, our community will be in the dark, as well as all of east of Fort Frances. With this investment, that would no longer be the case, it would be very, very unlikely, because we would have a backup or second supply to transition to. We’re happy to hear we have tremendous customer support… the information received here is really crucial to help us justify those expenditures. Also, when we do what’s called a rate application from the OEB, when the rates are set, all this customer feedback plays a really important role in that ruling we get. If what we’re asking is in alignment with our what our customers want and need, then we have a very high probability of getting that.”

Ruppenstein mentioned that along with the FFPC’s submission to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the town has also been mentioned in a recently-released regional infrastructure planning report, so the issues the town has faced regarding the stability and reliability of our electricity has been noted.

Some of the other interesting statistics gathered through the survey include that 98.7 per cent of respondents are happy with the quality of power they receive from the FFPC, 15.2 per cent of respondents plan on purchasing an electric vehicle within the next five years, only 5.1 per cent of respondents currently have a backup generator installed, but 13 per cent plan to install one within the next five years, and 46 per cent of respondents were not aware that the FFPC “operates as a non-profit organization with the lowest rates for electricity in the province.”

Taken altogether, Ruppenstein said the results of the survey are encouraging and “humbling,” as it demonstrates the amount of support the FFPC is receiving from the community.

“We’re very pleased and very humbled by the really great support that we’ve received from our customers in the survey,” he said.

“We’ll follow up a little bit more with some specifics that customers have suggestions for. For example, we’ll be following up with customers that are really happy to learn why exactly they are really happy, and with customers that are unhappy, what can we do to better ourselves specifically with unhappy customers. As well, we have a list of various open-ended feedback we requested. People gave us ideas, things to improve, everything from, we can make improvements to our website, we can make improvements to perhaps things like attaching their power bill to an email as opposed to just a link to the portal. We have a list of generic feedback across all aspects of our business. But generally speaking, we’re very happy with the very positive results that we received. It’s something that we’re very proud of.”