How to improve your solar business: 3 foundational strategies

Author : 
October 19, 2022

If you're a solar business owner looking for answers on how to improve your solar business, we have some good news.  We’ve done extensive research on what makes a solar business beat out the competition, and it’s not always what solar professionals expect.  Even if you lower the cost of your proposals, increase your marketing spend, or hire more team members, there’s still no guarantee that homeowners will pick you over another solar business.  However, there is one thing where, if you can achieve it, the ripple effects can positively impact every aspect of your business.  

So what is the silver bullet to a successful solar business?  A great customer experience.

It may sound obvious, but too many solar businesses under-invest in the customer experience, and as a result have  poor communication with their customers.  This has major ramifications for the business.  When customers expend too much time and effort trying to get answers from their solar installer, they no longer feel like they're participating in the wave of the future.  While they know that solar is a complicated process, homeowners expect to be guided through the solar process.  That’s why a lack of clarity around solar installation can directly lead to poor reviews and dissatisfaction, all while undercutting referral programs and operational efficiency. 

If customers are going to make the jump to the next generation of energy, the last thing they want is antiquated customer service.  In fact, bad customer service is a lose-lose for everyone. Customer complaints don’t just have the potential to impact your revenue; they can also impact team morale and retention. 

Fortunately, with the right solar software solution, a solar installer can be proactive with customers instead of spending significant time reacting to customer inquiries.  Investing in the right software can translate to improved daily schedules for managers and lower labor costs — all while effortlessly keeping customers engaged before, during, and after installation. 

How to improve your solar business and utilize trends

Solar installers that are hoping to improve their business and grow need to slide into the shoes of customers and prioritize communication and outreach. While you might think it’s the best (or cheapest) solar proposal that wins the deal, companies with thoughtful customer service can actually beat even cheaper competitors.  Below are three foundational communication strategies that will improve your solar business. 

1. Respect the customer's time

Customers don’t really want to deal with customer service.  This is why, per a Zendesk survey, more than 50% of customers rank quick resolutions as their number one goal when reaching out to a customer service rep.  A lengthy wait time is the fastest way to create frustrated customers, outranking all other customer service-related issues.

In the era of constant connectivity, customers are also less tolerant of bad service than ever before; according to the same Zendesk survey, roughly 50% of customers immediately turn to a competitor after only one bad customer service experience. The number climbs even higher if you’re a repeat offender of bad customer service.  80% of customers who have had multiple bad experiences with a company switch to a competitor.

Don’t worry.  Even if you’ve offered bad customer service early in a project, it’s not too late to improve your solar business’ reputation.  A different study out of Salesforce found that if a company’s customer service is excellent after a mistake, 78% of customers will do business with them again.  Conduct an audit of your customer service team and look for the reasons why your wait times are up or the customer experience is falling short.  It could be a process or staff bandwidth issue, which can be solved by automation, or it could be that you need to update your training.

2. Be proactive instead of reactive

Few customers expect perfection, but the vast majority do expect to be continuously kept in the loop. That is especially true for solar customers, as the solar coaster can often accidentally leave new customers in the dark.  A solar customer expects:

  • Regular (like weekly or biweekly) check-ins
  • Milestone updates that contextualize how far along they are
  • Easily accessible savings, CO2 impact, and energy generation figures for their system
  • Easily accessible referral program information

Each of these bullets speaks to the fact that homeowners like to feel like they are as up-to-date on their solar project as possible.  Make sure your team has the resources they need in order to adopt a proactive approach to customer service. This often means implementing a CRM, which can help streamline a lot of this information.  You might also consider additional software that allow for automated updates and enable your team to stay one step ahead of the customer.

3. Make it easy to access crucial data 

Homeowners also expect to be able to easily access key figures, such as overall energy generation and how much they are saving.  A simple automated message illuminating how much energy is being generated, along with the estimated energy savings, can be the make-or-break difference between customer satisfaction and a customer call. 

Just as your team wants easy access to project information, your customers want to have an easy-to-access hub of information as well.  Any customer milestone or promotional program information also needs to be easily accessible for your homeowners.  Many solar businesses rely on their homeowners having a well-organized inbox.  However, the reality is that if you’re sending over everything via email alone, your homeowners are going to lose track of project updates.  A customer who has to contact customer service or their project manager to find out details about a solar referral program is much less likely to generate a referral. 

While there will still be some homeowners who will always turn to a phone call first, most will be satisfied if they have some kind of customer portal that offers instantaneous access to key information right on their phone or computer.  Providing that access, whether through a white-labeled solution or a homegrown one, is an essential part of how to improve a solar business for an installer of any size.

Use customization to keep solar customers happy

The tech-heavy, contemporary world has given customers much more advanced tools for keeping tabs on services and purchases, giving them a peek behind the curtain in ways previously impossible.  Customers not only want to be able to contact the companies they buy from 24/7, but they expect content and communication that is tailored specifically to them.  In a multinational study detailed by Forbes, more than 80% of customers surveyed said they expect personalization.

RELATED: 7 best practices to grow your multi-regional solar business

Because no two solar installations are exactly the same, this is especially true in solar.  That’s why platforms that collate project updates and present them in an easy-to-use interface are growing in popularity among solar installers.  After all, a homeowner who can log in to a personalized portal and effortlessly check specific details of their solar installation is much less likely to reach out to a project manager or customer service.  Not only does investing in personalization allow your operations team to focus on execution instead of customer calls, but it also increases the likelihood of positive reviews and referrals.  

How to improve the bottom line as competition spikes

Solar is about to take off like never before.  Global inflation continues to rise, and the cost of electricity maintains its steady climb.  Meanwhile, the Inflation Reduction has renewed and broadened solar incentives.  For a solar provider, this is both a blessing and a challenge. While more and more customers are looking at solar, competition to fill this demand is also growing rapidly, making operational efficiency an essential differentiator. 

In this landscape, it’s crucial that solar businesses support their operations teams and ensure they have the resources they need.  Software solutions like a solar customer experience platform can help by:

  • Freeing up project managers to focus on project needs
  • Automating customer communications so customers feel taken care of
  • Generating strong leads through customer referrals
  • Increasing the number of positive reviews

RELATED: Too many projects! What to do if success is killing your project managers

Software solutions can also help you scale your customer service capabilities without needing to hire additional staff.  As the solar market continues to heat up, and we begin to enter a tricky job market, it’s more important than ever that your team has the tools they need to manage increased customer demands. 

Enhance your solar business with an eye on the future

For solar installers looking to stand out in an increasingly competitive market, there’s nothing more important than meeting customer expectations and delivering a great customer experience. 

As we’ve discussed, software is your number one tool in this battle.  However, there are many different kinds of software solutions out there.  When evaluating solar software, it’s important to find a platform that seamlessly integrates with your existing solar software stack, including your CRM, project management system, and document repository.  That way, all the details of your projects are organized in one straightforward system. To hear more about how to improve your operation with minimal effort, schedule a demo with our dedicated team and find out everything Bodhi can do for your solar business.

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