In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Consumers Energy adjusted its work so it won’t have to meet business customers in-person to help them reduce their energy bills.
Consumers kicked off the virtual energy assessment program in mid-April, providing the same energy consultation it previously offered but in a virtual format.
The assessment consists of three phone calls to customers. The first is just checking in with customers and making sure they are aware of Consumers’ business center and access to grants.
The second call involves discussions about the customer’s business and what kind of products or lighting they have in that business.
“We normally provide this in a face-to-face assessment, but the idea for this was no contact,” Consumers Energy Efficiency Program Manager Chad Miller said. “We want to learn a little about the products they have in the business, and the (result) of that is a report to show them what they can do to save energy.”
Consumers then checks in with the customer in a third phone call to ask if they have any questions about the report.
The utility also has an online marketplace where customers can order the energy-efficient items, like smart thermostats or LED lights, that Consumers staff would normally install in-person.
“You can also go to our online marketplace and purchase them at reduced cost,” Miller said.
Throughout the state’s COVID-19 shutdown, Consumers made 12,000 outbound calls, spoke to 5,000 businesses, and 400 businesses accepted the second call. Miller said many other businesses were interested but preferred to have a face-to-face visit once the COVID-19 situation died down and they chose to reopen.
Consumers also provided 1,400 $100 vouchers for customers to purchase the energy-efficient products on its online marketplace.
Consumers offers the same service to residential customers, as well. Senior Public Information Director Brian Wheeler said about 150 virtual assessments for homes have been completed or are scheduled since the program’s launch. While not as big as the business side, it continues to be an attractive option for customers.
Now that Michigan is in an uneasy recovery mode, many businesses are choosing to reopen, but many residential customers still are not comfortable with face-to-face meetings.
“Virtual energy analysis is here to stay for a while,” Wheeler said. “The pandemic has definitely caused us to innovate in some ways, but going forward, our work is going to accelerate to help all our customers make sure they’re not wasting energy.”
Businesses customers can sign up for a virtual assessment at consumersenergy.com.