Spotlight On: Member Services and Billing

Back row (left to right): Shayla Leigh, Tracy Labadie, Mindy Kavanaugh, Nicole Watchorn and Jennifer Sharpe. Front row (left to right): Allie Brawley, Kerry Micolo, Leslie Opolka, Ashlee Bonnee and Jackie Perry. (Not pictured: Rhonda Silver)

By Abby Moran

Picturing what keeps the lights on for Cloverland Electric Cooperative members it is common to visualize a bucket truck with a diligent line crew restoring an outage or upgrading a section of line. However, Cloverland’s critical workforce extends beyond the visible exterior of crews and into behind-the-scenes office employees. Working together, all office and field-based employees contribute to Cloverland’s mission – to deliver safe, reliable and affordable energy solutions to members.

Cloverland’s office-based member services and billing team are on the behind-the-scenes frontline of the cooperative. The team of 10 consists of six-member service representatives, two billing specialists, billing supervisor and member services manager. Both member services and billing work closely together, while performing distinct duties ensuring efficiency across both teams.

Member service representatives  are the friendly voices who answer phones, direct members with questions to the right internal department and provide information on cooperative programs and services ranging from energy optimization and payment assistance to reporting power outages.

Answering the phone is a major portion of their duties but member service representatives Nicole Watchorn, Mindy Kavanaugh, Leslie Opolka and Jackie Perry also work on automated clearing house (ACH bank to bank transfer) (EUP), process auto pay payments, assign service tickets and answer questions submitted from the cooperative’s website contact form. Tracy Labadie and Ashlee Bonnee are the friendly faces members see when paying a bill at our Dafter headquarters. Labadie and Bonnee process payments from local pay stations around the Eastern Upper Peninsula. They also manage all cooperative mail – a major task with over 1,400 pieces of mail arriving on an average Monday.

The billing team ensures all 43,176 cooperative meters receive accurate bills and 34,000 members’ payments are processed efficiently. Cloverland’s Billing Supervisor, Kerry Micolo, creates a detailed five cycle billing calendar for each calendar year, ensuring billing specialists, Rhonda Silver and Shayla Leigh, can perform duties with complete accuracy. The billing team has established a thorough process of checks and balances confirming their work and continuing a long record of billing excellence. Micolo also manages the cooperatives capital credit distribution. This critical process ensures any excess capital is returned to members once expenses have been paid. The cooperative returned over $750,000 to members in 2021.

"From the field work that begins with a service order generated by the member services team to managing a well-orchestrated billing process and processing multiple forms of payment, our member services and billing team serves a valuable role that is so critical to how our co-op functions each day,” says Cloverland’s Director of Communications and Member Relations, Allie Brawley. “Their attention to detail and ability to respond to any question ensures excellent service to our members and provides vital support our 120 co-op employees."

All duties of the member services and billing team are essential to the cooperative. However, when a large power outage occurs, team duties transition to an all-hands-on deck system to cover phone lines – entering outage calls into the cooperative’s outage management system. The team continually provides a friendly and reassuring voice for members during the most severe EUP storms.

Most calls received by the team are positive, but sometimes members may be frustrated about a bill or power outage situation and may release frustration to the hardworking member services and billing team. The cooperative encourages members to keep in mind this dedicated frontline team is doing their best to provide excellent service – and kindness from members is always appreciated by the team.

The member services and billing team describes one of their favorite parts of the job is the ability to solve problems for members. This skill is evident in the dedicated work they do each day providing behind the scenes frontline support for all other cooperative departments.

“The work we do affects every other area of the cooperative,” Cloverland’s Member Services Manager Jennifer Sharpe states. “Our camaraderie and attention to detail keeps our team focused on providing excellent service to members each day.”