7 easy-to-implement automations for your solar business

By automating these 7 things, you can generate more leads and take some of the load off of your project managers
Author : 
July 8, 2024

These days, everyone in the solar industry is looking to do more with less.  Despite that, we still see a lot of solar businesses that are wary to embrace any kind of automation in their business.   When we ask them why, they always seem to believe one of two myths.

The first myth that people believe is that automation in the solar industry is only worth it if you have big project volumes.  

Their project managers may be stressed, or their sales team may just barely be hitting their quotas, but ultimately they’re accomplishing what they need to accomplish.  The solar professionals that fall for this myth agree that automation can be useful for achieving scale — but they don’t want to take the time to set it up now because they’re “getting by just fine.”

The second myth that solar businesses believe is that automation will kill the “personal touch” their company has established.  

We hear this a lot from family-run solar organizations.  These owners have grown their business with 1:1, white-glove support for their homeowners.  Anything other than this direct outreach to customers feels like cutting corners for installers — even if it's these practices that are burning out their project managers and/or slowing down their install timelines. 

Rather than preaching the power of automation in solar or trying to debunk these myths one at a time, we’ve instead come up with 7 quick and easy automation hacks that are guaranteed to improve your operations AND your homeowners’ customer experience.  

We dare you to give these a try and then still come back to us as automation skeptics.  Because no matter the size of your solar business, these easy-to-implement automations will help you do more with less, all while making your customers happier than ever.

Hack 1:  Use Typeform to streamline solar lead capture

Data entry sucks, especially by sales reps.  They say they’ll get to it later and then forget — or by the time they’ve gotten to it, the homeowner details are fuzzy and incomplete.  So instead of trying to enforce a cumbersome data entry process (destined to fail), make the process itself easier for them.

Did you know that instead of relying on your sales reps to use the CRM, you can use Typeform to automatically record details about the deal?  Watch the video to see a guided walkthrough of how, or follow these simple steps:

  1. Create a free Typeform account.  
  2. Then create your Typeform lead capture form.  Typeform has pre-built questions for name, email, phone number, and you can easily create multiple choice questions to record data like lead source or product interest.
  3. Then connect your Typeform account to your CRM.  

Now, instead of needing to log into your Hubspot, Salesforce, or other CRM in order to log information about a deal, sales just has to fill out a pretty lead form.  With this form, all of the relevant prospect details are automatically captured in your CRM, ready to take action on later or by other members of your team.  

Hack 2:  Automate follow-ups to engaged subscribers

Are you making this email marketing mistake?

Most solar businesses send out some kind of monthly newsletter.  If you don’t, you should.

Newsletters are a great way to nurture those top-of-funnel leads, reminding them your business exists and all of the benefits of going solar.  That being said, if all you’re doing is sending out a one-and-done newsletter, you’re still only halfway nurturing your prospects.  

Yes, a standalone newsletter is better than nothing, but what’s even better is sending out your newsletter and THEN sending an automated follow-up email to highly engaged readers.  This is one of the easiest ways to segment your list and increase your sales conversion rates.  Customers also appreciate it because this follow-up is more likely to answer the questions they’re most interested in — maybe those nitty gritty facts about what the process of solar is like, or additional case studies that show off your work.

The best part is that sending out these automated emails to engaged solar leads is incredibly easy.  Watch the video or follow the steps below to learn how to do it with Hubspot:

  1. Go to your newsletter draft and click the “Automation” tab.  
  2. You should see a button where you can automatically add contacts to a list if they’ve clicked a newsletter link.
  3. Now create a more sales-y email for these engaged contacts, which you can automate to send a week after the initial email.  

And bonus!  Since you can also see the specific links each contact has clicked, this automatically created list of contacts can also be used by sales for personalized outreach.

Hack 3:  Automatically create project records 

Know what project managers hate more than data entry?  Entering the same data twice.  

But if your team uses both a CRM and some kind of separate solar project management software, that’s exactly what you’re dealing with.  When one system falls behind or ends up with outdated information, that’s when project details slip through the cracks and delays — or even change orders and inventory issues — start popping up. 

We have a hack that can help avoid all these challenges.  Watch the video or follow the steps below to learn how you can use Zapier to automatically create a project in your project management tool and copy data over from your CRM whenever the contract is signed:

  1. Create a free Zapier account.  
  2. Connect your Zapier account to both your CRM and project management tool.
  3. Now it’s time to set up a Zap trigger when the CRM record reaches Closed-won.  
  4. Next, set up an automation for this “Item” to be created within your project management system.  You can specify as many properties as you’d like to be copied over.

Hack 4:  Automate site visit scheduling

If you’re a solar project manager that has been responsible for getting the site visit scheduled, you probably relate to the film Groundhog Day.  Too often, project managers get stuck in endless email chains trying to schedule a site visit.  By the time you know the homeowner’s availability, the crew’s schedule has changed — and on and on it goes.

If that’s your reality, watch the video or check out these simple steps that show you how you can get rid of this issue for good with one easy automation:

  1. Create a free Calendly account.  
  2. Add the calendar accounts of your field crew or whoever does the site visits.  
  3. Next go into your customer experience platform.  From here, it’s as easy as embedding your new Calendly link into any automated emails you’ve already created to push scheduling forward.

Calendly also automates appointment confirmation and reminder emails, helping you avoid unnecessary truck rolls.  And if you don’t have a customer experience platform, you may be able to set up some basic automated emails to go out via your CRM.

Hack 5:  Send consistent “no update” updates 

If you’re a part of a region where permitting, HOA approvals, or PTO notices can take a long time, chances are you’ve got some antsy homeowners.  

Even if your sales or project team took the opportunity to explain these longer timelines at the beginning of a project, homeowners get nervous when they haven’t heard from your solar company in a while.  And to them “a while” can be as quick as a week.  

Of course, we’ve heard from solar businesses where PTO can take as long as 6-8 weeks.  If your team is having to reach out every one of these weeks just to let a homeowner know that nothing has happened, that takes a lot of time.  But if you opt to only check in a few times during this period, you’re risking an uneasy homeowner and a 1-star review.

Fortunately, we have an automation hack that can save your project managers time while also proetcting them from negative reviews.

First, you’ll need a customer experience platform or software that allows you to send automated emails based on “time since” other properties.  

For example, within Bodhi, you can set up a message to trigger based on the “time since” the last message the customer received.  With this functionality, you can set up a message saying, “Hang tight!  We’re still waiting on permit approval. This typically takes between 4-6 weeks.”  and have it automatically sent if it’s been more than 7 days since the homeowner has been contacted.

This simple automation can save you from 1-star reviews complaining about poor communication. 

Hack 6:  Use Slack to boost your referrals

These days, you’ll find all kinds of bespoke softwares that can help you generate more referrals.  But if you’re not able to invest additional time and resources in buying and learning a new software, there’s still an easy automation you can set up with tools we bet are already in your solar software stack

All you need is Slack (which has a great free option!) and a CRM.  Watch the video or follow these steps to set up a Slack message that can net you more solar referrals:

  1. Go into your CRM and click into where you can automate tasks.  In Hubspot it’s called Workflows.
  2. Then set the trigger condition to be that whenever a project status is “PTO,” a message gets sent to the sales team in Slack to contact the customer and ask for a referral.

And it’s as easy as that!  This automation is simple but powerful.  Often the biggest barrier to getting more referrals is simply the work it takes to figure out timing — now instead of your project manager needing to reach out to sales to notify them of PTO, sales is automatically contacted.

Hack 7:  Learn to automate review requests

Want more Google reviews?  Let us teach your service team a hack.

First you’re going to need a customer experience platform.  In the video you can see we’re using Bodhi as an example, but the process will be similar across other platforms:

  1. Go into where you can automate communications with your homeowners.  In Bodhi, this is called Journeys.  
  2. Once there, set up a trigger where once the site visit is completed, a message is sent asking for their feedback and that includes a direct link to leave a Google review.  (We have a guide to getting more solar reviews that shows how to set up that direct link if you need it.)

That’s it!  You can also swap this out for a referral link.

How automation helps you deliver a better customer experience

If you implement all 7 of these automations, we guarantee you’ll see happier project managers AND more 5-star reviews.  After all, these small-but-impactful automations are really about freeing up your staff to do their best work.  

We always say that you automate the mundane, so that your team can have more time to pursue the meaningful — those 1:1 phone calls with tricky customers, or the check-in from the team member who sold the project after the homeowner sees their first production data.

And the fact is, solar customers today expect these kinds of streamlined, automated updates throughout their project.  They’ve been conditioned by the likes of Amazon and Uber to expect consistent updates, delivered via the communication channel of their preference.  Keeping track of these preferences and updates regularly can be a headache for operations teams — but automation takes away that sting.

If you’d like to learn how Bodhi can help you automate and streamline more of your customer communications, so you can focus on what matters, schedule a time with us or get started for free now.

The tips you need to stand out

Our monthly newsletter shares the best practices and tools to keep installers at the forefront of the bright world of solar
Subscribe to newsletter