Moving Swiftly to Meet Customer Expectations

Texas-based Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative (GVEC) is guided by an ambitious vision statement as it works to deliver services to its membership: “Moving swiftly to deliver the unexpected: people, technology, solutions.”

If ever there came a year that challenged Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative (GVEC) to live up to that vision, 2020 was the one, Darren Schauer said. As CEO and general manager, he leads a co-op that provides retail electricity, high-speed internet and a host of other services to more than 100,000 members and customers in a 13-county area of south-central Texas.

“For us, as for most businesses and co-ops this past year, staying strong meant demonstrating the ability to adapt quickly to meet customer expectations,” Schauer said. “In early March when COVID-19 hit, we had to address a number of serious challenges, but nothing more important than the health and safety of our employees and the customers and communities we serve.”

GVEC leaders immediately asked one-third of their 350 employees to work from home. They temporarily closed customer-service lobbies, and accepted in-office visits by appointment only. They sanitized facilities and distributed personal protective equipment. GVEC established special safety protocols for technicians summoned to customers’ homes to install or repair heating and air conditioning units, do electrical work and establish broadband connections.

For us... staying strong meant demonstrating the ability to adapt quickly to meet customer expectations.

– Darren Schauer, CEO, Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative

From day one, GVEC responded to the concerns and needs of its members who experienced financial hardships from COVID-19. The co-op’s customer-friendly approach, which included waiving late charges and cancelling disconnects, had a positive effect on business. By the fall, the number of delinquent payments dropped below pre-pandemic levels.

A bright spot for GVEC has been the continued rapid growth of its Internet division. With more customers working from home and turning to online education, demand for high-speed broadband surged to new heights. added a record 1,800 subscribers in the first six months of the pandemic. The co-op continues to expand its broadband infrastructure, bringing internet service to rural territories where it is otherwise unavailable.

Looking back at a tumultuous 2020, Schauer is especially grateful for GVEC’s strong financing relationship with CoBank, which, he says, “really came through for us” at the onset of COVID-19. “In March, the commercial paper market dried up overnight,” said Gary Korn, CFO. “CoBank had a backup facility that we drew upon, which carried us over until the markets settled down. It’s the only time we needed to do something like that. The point is, we were able to turn to CoBank when we needed them most. Their attitude has always been, ‘what can we do to help?’ It’s a major reason why we greatly appreciate their partnership.”