7 tips for choosing the best CRM for your solar company

Author : 
April 16, 2021

The purpose of a CRM

Choosing the best CRM for your solar company is as vital as the technical expertise to deliver the service of integrating solar systems. The acronym CRM is an understated, but powerful concept that can underpin your success in business. Customer Relationship Management, CRM, at its core, collects customer interactions from various sources - email, phone calls, website visits, into one place. This can help the business improve the efficiency of your operations not to mention customer experience, satisfaction, retention, and service.

Over time, the functionalities and breadth of CRM systems have advanced from records on stone tablets, to cloud-based platforms using the latest in artificial intelligence to provide business insights. The CRMs available today often serve as the backbone of a solar software stack, helping a company grow revenue, improve efficiency, expand market penetration, and generally enjoy the benefits that come with a strong and appreciative customer base.  Making a choice of which CRM a business can adopt requires an intentional strategy towards the type of customer relationship your company is looking to cultivate.

What kind of solar company can use a CRM?

Certainly, there are many types of solar companies from vertically integrated full-service companies, sales only organizations, fulfillment companies, dealer models, franchises, O&M service providers, and more, but they all share one key characteristic - distributed solar is about customers.  In our industry, the interaction with customers is relatively brief compared to the service life of the product. A company may engage a customer for only 3 to 4 months out of a 25-year potential relationship.

The nature of the interactions during the customer acquisition phase and installation phase are technical, sensitive to change, and characterized by the cultural trends towards hyper-personalization, immediacy, and demand for innovation. A business must meet the demands of customer expectations in a way that sets up a long term stable and productive relationship. The question then is not what kind of solar company needs a CRM, but what kind of CRM is best suited for your solar company.

7 considerations when choosing a CRM

1)  Core Focus:

CRMs come in various stripes, defined by their core functionality, often one of either sales, marketing, service, or accounting.  Many of these CRMs have subsequently added other functionality to provide a more comprehensive offering to their customers.  However, knowing the core functionality helps to provide perspective on the approach each CRM uses to manage the customer relationship. Consider the core focus of your solar business - do you describe your business as a “sales business”, “marketing business” “service business” a combination of those things, or something else entirely? Identify a CRM that aligns itself with your businesses’ core focus.  

2) Integrations with External Software:  

Consider if the CRM offers integrations with other software used within your company so that your data is interoperable across the layers of your software stack. For example - can a customer's address automatically pull into the CRM from your proposal tool? Or will your team need to manually copy and paste that data between the proposal and CRM for each prospect?

3)  Automation:  

A key strength of a good CRM is its ability to remove the redundant and mundane tasks from a sales or operations team while improving the integrity of the data. Does the CRM offer time-saving automations? For example, can a task to place an equipment order be automatically created and assigned when a customer pays an invoice?

4)  Implementation Requirements:  

Before you can benefit from the CRM, it needs to work. Attributes like cloud-based software and cross-platform compatibility remove most technical challenges, but often overlooked is the question of how the teams will implement a new software solution. How heavy is the lift to implement the CRM? Some CRMs can be up in running after 2 intensive days of set up while others require 3 months to implement.

5) UI/UX:  

Evaluating the UI/UX requires more than a cursory test of its “look and feel”. It is recommended to have your staff evaluate it by using it- either with a trial or advanced set of demos. This is not a trivial matter, given the fact that an underutilized software could have a negative impact on the business if the people its meant to help do not embrace it. How easy to use is the CRM? Does it look intuitive, or convoluted?  Does it take 10 clicks to complete a simple task?

6) Pricing Structure:

Evaluation must consider price against the value that the CRM offers. The solar company’s business model will greatly determine how pricing can be evaluated.  Many industry-agnostic CRMs provide a free or low-cost tier with basic functionality meant for early-stage companies.  Advanced functionality is then charged at a premium.  

7)  Scalability:  

A CRM should be affordable today, and also down the road as your business grows and you add users, seats, contacts, and features.  While it is difficult to know exactly the challenges you will face, your CRM should not present a lag to your ability to grow and adapt at the pace you demand. Can the CRM be customized in terms of fields and workflows and to what degree?  Does the pricing structure lend itself to economies of scale? And finally, has the company behind the CRM embraced the mantra of constant improvement?

In conclusion

Making a choice to adopt a CRM is not a trivial task, but neither does it have to define you forever. To leverage your successes fully an appropriate CRM can streamline your processes while adding intelligence, adaptability, and expandability. The danger that lurks for any company is to adopt software that does not fit exactly, leading to attrition or outright mutiny. A recent 1E report demonstrates that $30 Billion are wasted on unused software.

Ensuring that your team utilizes the investment you are making is half the story. You also want the effects of your organization and efficiencies to be felt by your customers. Whether you are aiming to increase your output, increase your market penetration or reduce your operational expenses, you must ensure that the customer experience does not suffer. Choices to integrate platforms like Bodhi can extend the benefits of your CRM to a customer-facing experience. As you evaluate your choice for a CRM, we recommend a thorough evaluation of the listed criteria and a robust imagining of the benefits you expect your customers to experience.

If you're interested in learning more about selecting CRMs, contact us.

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