What do self-parking cars, smart phones and luggage with wheels have in common? They are all things that make our lives easier. And, while Michigan Saves isn’t revolutionizing energy efficiency in quite the same way these inventions have transformed transit, communication and travel, it’s always looking for new ways to simplify the energy improvement financing process, especially for contractors.
“Over the years, we’ve learned that when our contractors are happy, customers are happy,” says Michigan Saves operations manager Kait Wyckoff. “And when customers are happy, they’re much more inclined to spread the word about how smart, affordable and easy it is to increase the comfort and efficiency of one’s home or business.”
It’s that word of mouth that has helped Michigan Saves grow its organization significantly and reduce energy waste across the state.
“When customers have a positive experience, it benefits everyone,” Wyckoff says. “The very best way to ensure a good customer experience is to make sure our authorized contractors have what they need and can access it as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
What exactly has Michigan Saves done to make life simpler for contractors? Even though we are less than half way through 2017, the organization has already taken numerous steps in three critical areas to enhance the contractor experience.
Perfecting the application and notification processes
Over the course of any given year, there are numerous programs that help residential customers obtain even better financing than the typical low rates provided through Michigan Saves. For example, the City of Wyandotte is currently offering 1.99% APR for qualified residents on their energy-efficiency improvement projects. In the past, contractors had to keep track of the different programs, when they started and stopped, and memorize multiple phone numbers through which to apply. Now, there’s just one phone number to remember.
“If there’s a particular program a contractor wants for the customer, all they have to do is call the Michigan Saves loan application center, give us their information like they did in the past and we do the rest,” says Wyckoff. “It’s as simple as that.”
Michigan Saves has also streamlined the loan decision notification process. Previously, contractors either had to take their customer’s word that they had been approved for financing or wait to start work until the customer received a confirmation letter through the mail from the lender. Because of recent process improvements, however, the call center’s representative can now ask the customer’s permission to share the loan decision with the contractor during the application process. If they say “yes,” a detailed confirmation email — with the loan decision, loan amount, expectations and next steps — is sent to both the customer and the contractor as soon as the call ends.
“While this may seem like a minor adjustment, it’s really an extraordinary time saver, allowing contractors to begin work much more quickly than they could have in the past,” Wyckoff explains. “Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.”
Changing certification of completion procedures
Along the same lines, when a past energy-efficiency project was complete, authorized contractors had to go into the Michigan Saves website and submit a certification of completion, specifying not only that the project was finished, but what energy improvements had been installed, how much the project cost and what lender was used. Contractors would then separately provide the certification of completion to the lender to initiate loan closing. Now, the website is programmed to automatically route the certification of completion to the lender at the same time it’s submitted to Michigan Saves, thereby eliminating an entire step of the close-out process.
“This is another great example of a small but important adjustment that simplifies procedures for contractors,” says Wyckoff. “We listened, we brainstormed ideas and we implemented changes … all with the hope of making the financing process as stress free as possible.”
Adding flexibility and function to training
Last, but certainly not least, Michigan Saves developed a number of new videos for both residential and commercial contractors. These resources include a general “about Michigan Saves” video, which explains how the organization functions, and a series of training videos that discuss everything from which projects are eligible for funding and how to help customers apply for loans to how to complete a specification sheet and close out a project.
“To become an authorized contractor, people must, among other things, attend a free, one-hour online webinar that we currently offer once each month,” says Wyckoff. “Our new videos enable contractors who miss those online sessions to obtain the same information in small, digestible pieces at their own convenience, outside peak business hours.”
The videos are not only great for new contractors, but are also excellent refreshers for existing contractors who may not want to attend an entire training session, but need a few quick reminders about how Michigan Saves operates.
Other marketing tools are also available to contractors on the organization’s website. They include electronic case studies, rack cards, logos and even branding guidelines for contractors who want to incorporate Michigan Saves into their own print materials and broader promotional efforts. In addition, a payment calculator is now available on the contractor resources page.
“There is always a benefit to the customer when the contractor is informed about our processes and tools, and can access or use them effortlessly,” says Wyckoff. “That’s why we work so hard to make sure that all of our systems support and enhance what our contractors do.”