Communicating solar project milestones to customers

How you communicate solar project milestones can have major impacts on your reviews, referrals, and more
Author : 
October 12, 2022

Communicating solar project milestones to customers

I was talking to a solar project manager who was responsible for moving projects through the permitting and installation process and being the customer focal point.  He didn’t mind having to update customers, but when things got busy, he thought it was more important to work on getting the project moving along than making a phone call, especially when there was no real update to update.

Generally speaking, solar installation managers understand that client satisfaction depends on getting the job done correctly, on schedule, and communicating solar project milestones effectively.  However, when your days are jam-packed with installations to oversee, it's critical that you balance the actual project management with homeowners’ typical barrage of questions.  After all, while customers have a right to know what’s going on with their projects, these customer communications can eat up a significant portion of the day. 

Thankfully, there is a more efficient way to not only communicate with customers but to ensure they have the ultimate customer experience. 

What is the solar customer experience?

As solar professionals, we know that a solar installation can take anywhere from two to more than six months.  However, most homeowners don't know this, nor do they completely grasp how the installation process works or what to expect throughout the project.  Because going solar is still a first-time experience for most homeowners, they naturally have a ton of questions about the installation process and project milestones.

Instead of manually fielding every call, text, and email, many solar installation companies choose to use a solar customer experience platform that connects with their CRM, document repository, project management system, and energy monitoring systems so updates to these systems automatically update the customer portal.  Through this platform, customers can access their project documents, see their project timeline, milestones, and next steps, as well as contact their project manager and even make referrals. 

By automating project updates, you can ensure your clients have real-time access to their installation details without having to contact you or the project manager.  Great customer experience platforms also prove their worth post-installation.  The best platforms will give your homeowners ongoing access and allow them to see how much money and CO2 their new system is saving them, further validating their positive solar customer experience.

Related: The Solar Software Stack For The Modern Solar Company

This has major benefits for your solar business.  If customers are satisfied with the solar process, they are far more inclined to suggest your business to others.  Not only can happy clients help generate new referrals, but consistently trying to create a positive customer experience will also help you avoid negative internet reviews that might permanently harm your reputation.

Managing customer communications

As a solar installer, you know customer communications are important, but it’s not always clear how to manage them.  Should you hire people to manage customer inquiries or dedicate a portion of your time each day to talking with clients?  Maybe you just need to give homeowners a binder full of standard installation information.  Monthly homeowner meetings?  Perhaps.

However, all of these options cost money, and the truth is they don’t always get the customer exactly what they need. Let’s take a look at some of the issues these “solutions” create.

Regular meetings and manually responding to every homeowner inquiry isn’t efficient or sustainable  

As your business grows, it becomes unsustainable to quickly respond to every homeowner inquiry.  Regular homeowner meetings take up your time and theirs, and there are likely few situations that actually require an in-person meeting beyond the initial walk-through. 

With this strategy, your team can end up devoting up to 50% of their days simply engaging with customers — taking away from their ability to actually focus on executing the installation process or engage in other initiatives, like marketing efforts and winning new business.  For a growing solar business, it’s a lose-lose as operational costs compound and customers often end up frustrated.

Project managers can feel overwhelmed

When your employees are stressed and feel like they can’t be productive, their morale suffers.  If they cannot reach all their goals because they spend so much time communicating with customers, they can become so stressed they consider leaving the business.  Customers upset by poor communication also aren’t fun to deal with, which is why customer service positions have such a high turnover rate.  Solar business leaders need to ask themselves if it’s worth sacrificing retention over a faulty customer communications strategy.

Hiring customer relationship managers is expensive and often doesn’t solve the issue

For some solar installation companies, the answer to effective customer communications is to hire a dedicated manager to field the calls and build relationships. Some call this their “Customer Concierge” team.  If you have the money for such a role, why not? 

The problem here is that customer expectations have shifted.  Consumers now desire on-demand service and information, with the ability to access the information they seek at their convenience.  Having to call or email anyone and wait for a response is no longer acceptable, with 82% of consumers expecting an immediate response to their questions.

Your business can lose credibility and market share

How you communicate solar project milestones as a solar installer directly impacts your business performance indicators.  Everything from sales growth to customer loyalty will suffer if customers feel like they are in the dark or are spending too much time waiting for a response. 

Despite your best efforts to keep every homeowner in your customer base up to date on every detail of their installation, messages, emails and calls can easily slip through the cracks.  Unfortunately, it only takes one instance of missed or delayed communications to damage your company’s reputation.  Poor communication can lead to your customers losing trust and confidence in your business, which can spill over to poor reviews and decreased referrals. 

Related: The Solar Customer Journey, From The Customer's Perspective

Improve communications with a solar customer experience platform

While solar is considered technologically advanced, it’s incredible how many solar installation companies still rely on outdated customer communication strategies.  Often this isn’t a solar installer’s fault — this is a stressful and demanding industry, and customer expectations have skyrocketed thanks to companies like Amazon.  That’s why it’s important to embrace technology that can create a more efficient, sustainable and scalable business.

Communicating solar project milestones doesn’t have to be manual and labor-intensive.  You can modernize your operations and directly impact the customer experience with a solar customer experience platform.  Think of the platform as akin to your doctor’s patient portal, where you can access your medical records, recent tests, and doctor visit notes, as well as see when your next recommended appointment is and even schedule it.  You can message your provider securely and easily, often getting a response within the same day.

A solar customer experience platform is built for the same purpose — to provide homeowners with the most commonly requested information and self-service options so they can get what they need quickly, without having to schedule an appointment or pick up the phone.

When your customers are curious about their project milestones and upcoming installation phases, they can see it in their portal.  However, this transparency only works when the portal integrates with key business systems and data you determine to be relevant.

That’s why the best solar customer experience platforms integrate with your existing CRM, project management tools, and document repositories.  Through this integration, whenever your team makes updates to homeowner or project information, such as uploading a permit or uploading a contract, that information populates the homeowner’s portal in real time through our solar project management tool.  They don’t have to ask you if the permit has been issued or what portion of the project was completed that week.  Instead, they go to their personal portal and see exactly what’s happening and why there may be delays.

The best portals are also more than just a dump of project information.  With a robust solar customer experience platform, you can set up automated customer emails or texts on whatever schedule you like.  You can also use templates to have the system respond automatically to common homeowner questions, much like a bot but with the ability to customize your responses. 

Although no one technology can completely replace humans, it can help to reduce the likelihood of inaccuracy or customer neglect.  Customers have what they need at their fingertips, and you can get your time back and get more done without sacrificing customer satisfaction. 

If you’re in the market for a solar customer experience platform, Bodhi is a powerful addition to your solar software stack.  Our platform can help you lower customer support costs by 50% and empower your company to own the customer experience. Schedule a demo to learn more about Bodhi and create excellent client experiences with ease.

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