On a recent call with an installer, we got onto the topic of reviews — and the installer had a story to tell that many solar professionals can relate to.
In short, the installer recounted how a customer gave the company a one-star review just because the project manager hadn't yet called the customer back on Monday as promised on their Friday call. Given how important reviews are, this issue rose up to the CEO of the company, who felt like he had to take it into his own hands. The CEO called the customer, and after first addressing the issue, he went on to explain the importance of reviews to their business. Fortunately, after the conversation, the customer changed their review to five stars. (Why your detractors can become your biggest advocates is a whole other topic.)
Stories like this one underscore just how important reviews are.
A Harvard Business School study found that a one-star decrease on review sites leads to a 9% reduction in businesses’ revenue.
Reviews are like evergreen, universal referrals. While they may not carry the direct social pressure of a friend-to-friend recommendation, reviews still serve as personalized endorsements of your solar business. In fact, even customers who have been directly referred by a friend are likely to first search reviews before reaching out to your solar sales representative. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new pair of shoes or a residential solar system, your customers want to feel like they’ve vetted their purchase.
On top of this, search engines like Google reward businesses who have generated reviews. Companies that can achieve both a high quantity and quality of reviews get boosted by the search algorithm, allowing new customers to more easily find and engage with these businesses.
When you start to realize all the knock-on effects of reviews to a solar business, it’s easy to understand why the installer CEO felt it was worth his time to step in. As his story illustrates, there’s an unfortunate, universal truth to reviews:
Good reviews are hard to get, but bad reviews come all too easily. (Good reviews are always earned, bad reviews are not.)
Below, we’ve outlined seven tips for soliciting and generating reviews. By implementing these best practices, you can begin increasing both the quantity and quality of your reviews and build a strong solar reviews program.
7 best practices to get more solar customer reviews
1. Start with customer-centric company culture
Our first tip is obvious but irreplaceable. You’ll never get good reviews if your customers have a poor experience with your company. Building a customer-centric company culture means that each of your employees understands the value of the customer, as well as how to best serve them. Usually the sales team innately understands this concept, but your operations, marketing, and leadership team all need to buy into this ideology as well — especially because these other teams have just as much impact on the overall experience your customer has. For the majority of homeowners beginning their solar journey for the first time, it’s not just about the panels or the batteries. It’s about the experience of knowing they are going to be powered by the sun.
With this in mind, create an internal culture of continuous improvement. (Reviews are feedback, after all!) Equip all staff with the attitude and openness to receive feedback by making it a cross-company initiative. The idea of continuous improvement should apply just as much to leadership as it should to your field teams. Everyone at your business should be humble and accountable to insights from customers.
Additionally, make sure your team has the resources they need to set appropriate expectations and maintain communication with customers. Look for ways to standardize and automate the winning tactics that have given you your most loyal customers to date.
2. Start with your champions
Speaking of loyal customers, if you’re a long-time reader of the Bodhi blog, you know how passionate we are about identifying and elevating your customer Champions. As we share in our dedicated post on champions, 80% of referrals come from 20% of solar customers. However, referrals are just one piece of the puzzle. In addition to generating referrals, you should also tap your champions to write reviews.
This has to be done personally — and not just because that’s the kind of white glove service your Champions deserve. Google Review Policy actually prohibits soliciting “reviews from customers in bulk.” If they catch you violating this policy, they will erase all of your reviews, even the ones that were organically received. However, so long as you are reaching out to your champions individually, and you emphasize to them that these should be entirely honest reviews, you’ll stay in the clear and likely up your star rating at the same time.
3. Ask for reviews at the right time
With reviews, the timing and medium is everything. Once customers decide to go solar, they begin their ride on what we call the “solarcoaster.” This is the long solar journey that takes the customer through the highs (powering up!) and lows (inspection) of installation. The key is to time your requests for reviews with the highs of this process. Right after contracting or installation are great moments to ask for a review. However, be mindful that these windows of opportunity close quickly. The solarcoaster doesn’t stop for breaks!
Beyond the dedicated peaks of the solarcoaster, there are other customer actions that should also serve as a prompt to solicit a review. For example, when a customer has opted into another project, when they’ve sent you a referral, or when they’ve tagged you on social media are all clear signals that they are willing to go the extra mile in their engagement with you.
4. Ask for reviews through the right channels
Once you know the moment is right, it’s just as important to send your request via the right channel. Both email and text messages allow you to easily link out to Google reviews, and they have the benefit of being an established channel of communication. However, text messages have much higher conversion rates than email, about 20x — a fact you should use to your advantage.
Face-to-face communication can also be quite effective at helping your customers understand why reviews are so important to you, but since they won’t have the link right in front of them, it can be harder to drive conversions from these conversations. That’s why it’s always important to follow-up. As the solarcoaster illustrates, there are many highs along the solar journey, and you shouldn’t be afraid to take advantage of each peak.
5. Make it easy to leave a review
Most of the time, it’s not that customers don’t want to leave a review. They do, or at the very least, they’re not opposed to the idea. According to the Fogg Behavior Model, the challenge is that leaving a review is so far from their mind, or seems like such a burdensome task, that they continually push it off or forget about it. That’s why it’s important to both follow-up, as well as make the reviewing process as easy as possible. You should never make the customer hunt for the Google review form.
This means embedding a direct link to Google reviews on your website, as well as including opportunities for testimonials and reviews in any customer surveys that already exist. Additionally, you should include a Google review link in all employees’ email signatures, as well as each newsletter and social channel “about” section.
6. Make the ask personal
Another great way to increase your Google reviews is to Identify your customers’ Bartle player type. This way of categorizing customers helps you understand their motivations and segment them accordingly. Once you categorize them as an achiever (motivated by status) or an explorer (motivated by discovery), you can match your review request to better appeal to them.
For example, for the achievers, emphasize how you have a goal of 100% of satisfied customers leaving a review, and how they can help you achieve that. For explorers, speak to how many people rely on Google reviews to research and truly discover solar. No matter which tact you take, make sure that when you request a review you are always straightforward and direct, as well as true to your company’s voice. There are ways to incorporate the psychology of the Bartle player type without sacrificing brevity or brand.
7. Be responsive
Being responsive can mean different things depending on what stage of posting a review the customer is in. For example, no matter how easy and personalized you make the request, some people are going to run into issues posting a review. If they reach out to request assistance posting a review, respond quickly. You want to ensure that you don’t serve as the blocker of an endorsement.
On the flip side, for customers that have already successfully posted reviews, it’s important to validate their decision to post by also being responsive to their content. This means engaging with both good and bad reviews, both of which have value. Statistics show that of the customers who received a response from a company after posting a negative comment, 33% reversed and posted a positive review, while 34% removed the original negative review. For good reviews, what this looks like is fairly self-explanatory — say thank you and reflect their enthusiasm for solar. For bad reviews, the most important thing is to address their issue head-on without being defensive. Express your regrets that they didn’t have a good experience and discuss the ways that you either sought to correct the situation in the moment or how you’re going to make it better now. Keep it short and professional. If appropriate, you can also escalate to a phone call, as the installer CEO in our introduction did. However, if the review is going to stay up, you should take it as a rule that you need to respond.
Then scale what works
The more reviews, the better, so once you’ve started implementing these best practices, it’s time to scale them. This could look like:
—Make asking for reviews part of the sales training process.
—Automate an email requesting a review to go out after a certain amount of time or a trigger event.
—Automate a calendar invite at the end of the month reminding your sales team to reach out and request a review from any closed contacts.
—Incorporating review-driven content into your content and marketing calendars.
Additionally, once you have a solid base of reviews, we recommend finding ways to cross-promote it across your other channels. For example, many of our customers take the positive reviews that Bodhi enabled and highlight them in a testimonial on their website. Alternatively, you can create branded graphics for your social media channels that leverage key quotes from your Yelp reviews. Not only does this ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, but it also serves to implicitly and consistently remind your existing customers to leave a review.
Generate more reviews with Bodhi
From our team of solar customer experience experts to yours, we hope that these tips have helped you create a game plan for soliciting and generating great solar reviews. If you’re looking for a partner to help implement and execute on any of these tips, we’d love to schedule a call. As the first customer experience platform custom-built for the solar industry, Bodhi helps facilitate reviews in big and small ways. Our platform can couple an NPS survey and feedback with a Google Review ask — all via text message. We also streamline the customer communication process more broadly.
If you’d like to talk more about how we can help your solar business grow, contact us.