4 ways monitoring data can earn your solar business more money

If you’re not engaging your customers post-install, you’re leaving money on the table
Author : 
May 24, 2022

When we were first doing market research for Bodhi, we conducted countless interviews with solar homeowners to see what their solar experience had been like.  We wanted to know where the industry was succeeding, where it was falling short, and what kinds of untapped opportunities there were for solar businesses.  During this research, we uncovered a lot of interesting findings, but one fact surprised us more than anything else. 

When we asked homeowners which company had installed their solar system, the vast majority of people scratched their heads and gave one of three answers: “I don’t know,” “Enphase,” or “SolarEdge.”

These answers baffled us, but this is the challenge installers face today.  When you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind.  In place of you, the solar company, inverter companies have co-opted the customer relationship, and with it, a highly valuable asset.

While a solar installer may prioritize customer communications during sales and install, there’s usually a near complete drop-off in communication upon completion of the project.  This usually comes down to bandwidth — new and ongoing project updates have to take priority.  Often due to internal capacity issues alone, post-install, the homeowner-installer relationship devolves into troubleshooting.  The unfortunate result is that, no matter how great the install went, an installer’s relationship with a homeowner gets reduced down to addressing negative events.

Worse still, customers are monitoring their system performance through a platform that doesn't even have your company’s name attached to them.  Instead, from the homeowner’s perspective, it’s the inverter that is continuing to build a relationship with them post-install.  Until, eventually, the inverter’s name is the only lasting memory your customer has of their solar system. 

It’s frustrating to say the least.  After all, solar installers have a hard enough time winning these customers to begin with, what with low proposal conversion rates and high customer acquisition costs.  Once you’ve finally won the customer and delivered the system, why should you give this relationship away to a different business? 

What’s clear is that, if solar installers want to continue to grow, we need to change the way we think about post-install customer engagement.  As we heard recently at a conference, “Someday in the future, every home will have a solar system — and then what?” 

The answer is monitoring data.  It holds the key to capitalizing on the 25+ year customer relationship that comes inherent in solar. 

That’s why today, we’re sharing four reasons that you should be using monitoring data to better engage your customers.  These reasons aren’t just important for a competitive customer experience — they also directly support your bottom line.

1. Monitoring data enables post-install sales opportunities 

Many solar companies today are so focused on selling an initial system to homeowners that they neglect post-install sales opportunities.  However, follow-on products and services can help you boost the lifetime value (LTV) of your customers and ultimately allow you to grow your revenue without chasing down new customers.  Sunrun estimated that the LTV of a solar customer can be twice that of the initial sale.  

One way monitoring data can help unlock this LTV is by giving you insight into your customer’s consumption patterns.  For example, as more homeowners switch to electric cars, they will be interested in expanding their solar system to bring their electric bills back down.  Also, as rate structures become more complicated, many solar homeowners won’t be using electricity at the optimal times.  Installing batteries and load-shifting could be the right solution for them.  With monitoring data and the right insights, your sales team can time their outreach and effectively retarget those with the greatest need and urgency for these additional products.

A second way monitoring data can help unlock LTV is by providing you a means to offer targeted service plans.  Homeowners have a pool guy and an A/C guy.  Many of your customers will also want and pay for a solar guy to keep their solar system running optimally.  These service plans generally include active monitoring and certain services like annual panel cleaning.  Companies like Palmetto and Stable Solar understand this and already offer different tiers of service plans.  

With the right software tool, offering these service plans or creating these targeted campaigns doesn’t have to be complicated or time-intensive.  Many of Bodhi’s customers use our platform as a way to quickly get new sales initiatives up and running.

2. Monitoring data helps drive referrals

We often talk to residential solar installers about the solarcoaster — aka the solar customer journey.  Understanding this process is key to increasing referrals and positive reviews.  We’ve seen how, by timing referral and review requests to align with peaks in the customer experience, solar businesses can increase their referrals by 30%

It sounds obvious, but the reason this strategy works is because these peaks represent the moments where homeowners are the most well-informed and excited about their projects.  They feel equipped and motivated to evangelize their solar journey.

Monitoring data can help create more of these opportunities post-install.  By using monitoring data to build out more positive and personalized customer touch points, you reinforce to homeowners the value of their systems.  And the more customers experience  the benefits of their solar system, the more likely they are to talk about it to their friends and drive referrals.

Through solar CX platforms like Bodhi, it’s easy to automate referral requests to go out on days with great production.  By pushing out these positive alerts and helping your homeowners interpret their monitoring data, you provide them the proof they need to talk to their friends about solar.  

For example, one of Bodhi’s customers, AM Sun, says that referrals often come in one or two years down the road from install.  These long-tail referrals validate that being top of mind for the entire duration of a system’s lifespan is important and can drive revenue.  

3. Monitoring data can drive down customer acquisition costs (CAC)

Many consumers become interested in solar because of big goals like reducing their carbon footprint, offsetting their energy bill, or becoming more energy independent.  They hope that solar will be the solution they’ve been searching for — but they don’t fully trust it. 

It makes sense.  Solar is a new, challenger technology.  Unless they have someone in their life that has already gone solar, doubts about efficacy or payback period can creep in.  We all know that’s why referrals are so important, but monitoring data is another important tool in your toolbelt.  

During the sales process, monitoring data is the best proof we have that solar works.  Every single day, monitoring makes real what were previously only abstract concepts for homeowners.  Monitoring data proves that they are reducing their carbon footprint, lowering their energy bill, and becoming a more energy self-sufficient household. 

Monitoring data helps get people over the “too good to be true” so that you can more easily close the deal.  Especially for customers that fit into the explorer or socializer personas, showing them monitoring data will make solar feel real and meaningful.  Just make sure the monitoring app has your logo rather than the inverter company’s.  

4. Monitoring data helps build a sense of ownership over energy consumption 

Beyond helping drive referrals or bringing down your CAC, monitoring data also helps solar in ways that are more intangible, but just as important long-term to the health of the industry.  After all, by helping your homeowners develop an ongoing relationship to their monitoring data, you help them build a sense of ownership over the role energy plays in their lives.  

The traditional energy industry (ahem…utilities) has never nurtured this relationship with their customer base.  Why would they?  By bringing attention to where their energy comes from or what their energy consumption means, they would only put the spotlight on untenable or destructive practices.  However, solar has nothing to hide and everything to gain by helping homeowners nurture a deeper sense of ownership of their energy usage.

Bodhi’s CEO Scott often tells the story of how, when he first went solar, his kids pulled up the monitoring data on his phone.  They were hooked on trying to make the consumption numbers go down and raced around the house turning off lights and unplugging electronics.  Solar had finally made their energy usage feel real — and it even made the idea of saving feel fun!  It was a moment that brought the whole family together and made them feel personally, not just financially, invested in their solar system.

This is crucial for the continued growth of the solar industry.  If people don’t feel like they have a relationship with their energy consumption, they have no motivation to try and change (or get others to change) from the status quo to solar.  When one of the key reasons for solar’s low conversion rate is most customers are still deciding to go solar or to not go solar, monitoring data can help ground the conversation in a measurable reason to make the switch.

How to make monitoring data work for you

In a perfect world, every homeowner would look at their monitoring data and use it as a reminder of the awesome work your solar business accomplished.  However, homeowners are far from perfect, which is they need your help to make sense of monitoring data.  Instead of looking at this as another challenge, use it as an opportunity.

Bodhi can help you make monitoring data a profit center in your business by enabling the strategies we outlined above.  Not only does Bodhi help you automate alerts based on monitoring data, but we also provide a homeowner-friendly interface that is customizable and design-forward.  We help you use monitoring data to answer the homeowner’s question of “Is my system working and meeting my expectations?” and share the right level of granularity about the data.

If you’d like to learn how Bodhi's solar asset management software can help you use monitoring data to better serve your customers and bring in more revenue, we’d love to talk.

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