Michigan Saves’ Home Energy Lending Program (HELP) gives homeowners an easy way to increase comfort in their homes, save money on energy bills, and make Michigan a more energy-efficient state. Since 2010, HELP has enabled more than $50 million in capital available to over 5,300 families and achieved major milestones in 2015. Plans for 2016 include expanding the program through offerings like on-bill financing, better internal processes, and continuing its successful Beer & Wings incentive program for contractors.

“Homeowners really see the value of energy upgrades,” says Michigan Saves executive director Mary Templeton. “If we can make the process easy for them, that’s not only money saved for them, but energy saved for our state.”

A focus on customer service

This past year, the Michigan Saves staff emphasized stellar customer service processes. The call center was updated in order to get customers the information they need more effectively.

“We listen to everybody and try to take all feedback to heart to improve the program,” says project assistant Kait Wyckoff.

In order to strengthen customer service, the Michigan Saves team went through a Zingerman’s training program, which introduced the team to a new system. Michigan Saves has been refining its Code Red system, which documents and organizes customer feedback about contractors, lenders, and even internal staff. As soon as a suggestion or feedback comes in, it is put into a spreadsheet with the person’s name, contact, their comment, the actions to take, and whether or not their issue was addressed. Each Michigan Saves staff member has access to the spreadsheet and feedback is addressed by the person who received them. The goal is to handle each concern quickly, accurately, and enthusiastically.

“If an issue comes up, it’s not always a bad thing,” says Laura Palombi, Michigan Saves operations manager. “It’s an opportunity for us to make sure our contractors have the training and support they need to make the process smooth for their customers.”

Beer & Wings

Michigan Saves experienced great success with its popular Beer & Wings promotion, which rewards contractors’ hard work with parties featuring beer and buffalo wings. Contractors were eligible for a party if they secured 24 loans between July and December in 2014, with celebrations taking place in 2015 after the results were in.

According to Michigan Saves’ Wyckoff, there has been a spike in loan volume and value since Beer & Wings was introduced.

“The contractors like the competitive aspect of Beer & Wings,” says Wyckoff. “Everyone had a really good time with it. One contractor had weekly meetings where they would update their staff on where they were ranked in the competition.”

Dr. Energy Saver was the first Beer & Wings party recipient in 2015. The company brought their whole staff to the Michigan Saves office for the party, giving both teams an opportunity to get to know each other better.

“We loved having a chance to talk to everybody about Michigan Saves, so they could provide input to make our offerings better,” says Palombi. “When they have a good idea of what we do, they can better communicate it to their partners and customers, which we think really strengthens our relationship.”

What’s ahead

In January, Michigan Saves will host an annual strategic planning retreat with its board of directors. At the retreat, the team will put together its growth goals for 2016 based on data from previous years.

“As the program grows and we have more and more data which helps us forecast goals, we can model out what we think are realistic—yet challenging—targets,” says Palombi.