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Customer Teams at Bonneville Power Administration

Customer Teams at Bonneville Power Administration

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a component of the Department of Energy, is the major supplier of hydroelectric power and transmission services in the Northwest United States. Since 1995, BPA has been required to compete for its customers with non-Government suppliers. As a result, it has to function as a business, not a Government agency, to survive. To establish a clear focus, BPA developed a strategic business plan and formed customer teams to implement its primary objective: improving customer satisfaction.

Business Plan

With survival as the key driver, BPA began a comprehensive reengineering process in 1995. A business plan, which became the springboard for establishing customer teams, was developed around seven objectives:

  1. Achieve high and continually improving customer satisfaction.
  2. Increase the value of the business and share the expanded benefits.
  3. Be the lowest cost producer of power and transmission services.
  4. Achieve and maintain financial integrity.
  5. Keep the power system safe and reliable.
  6. Invest in environmental results to sustain competitiveness.
  7. Transform BPA into a high-performing, business-oriented organization.

Establishing Teams

Because the business plan emphasizes customer satisfaction, cross-functional, customer-focused teams were established in October 1996 to provide customers a "one-stop shopping" service. Including each service function, such as billing, contract administration, or product offerings, in the team structure enables team members to serve all the needs of the specific customers assigned to them. Work within the team is allocated on the basis of skills and strengths, rather than just job classification. This enables the teams to provide fast turnaround on all customer's issues and concerns dealing with any aspect of BPA service.

To be more responsive to customer needs and to develop close relationships with their customers, teams have complete "ownership" of their accounts. The advantages of ownership include:

  • customers being more comfortable knowing who they will deal with, and
  • teams gaining in-depth knowledge of the needs of each customer.

Another advantage BPA has realized through using teams is improved internal communications. If an announcement is made at a staff meeting or an action occurs with a customer, the team member in attendance ensures that all of the members get the information.

By reorganizing into teams, BPA has achieved its goals of streamlining customer service and flattening the management structure. The original plan was to form teams as needed, but due to the teams' success and the organization's needs, the use of teams was expanded and made permanent.


The results have been excellent! Team members know their jobs and their customers. Customers are happier knowing they will deal with the same account representatives. Team members understand expectations and share information, realizing there is no advantage in hoarding knowledge. The teams are empowered to decide how to approach each of their customers and each team member is considered vital to the success of the team.

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