Switching to solar energy is a major decision and a big investment for most homeowners. It’s no surprise that solar customers often have a lot of concerns and questions regarding the sale, installation, and commissioning of their solar array, especially when you consider this may be their first experience with solar. Add to that the fact that consumers are now used to getting their questions answered immediately, often through online chat features and customer portals, and it quickly becomes clear that solar installers have a lot they need to consider when it comes to customer expectations and customer communications.
Even with the most mundane of purchases, from an Amazon package to a pizza, consumers are used to knowing what's happening at every stage of their customer journey. As a result, they come into their solar project with the expectation that their installation (which costs tens of thousands of dollars) will be just as transparent. After all, solar is much higher tech than a pizza, right?
While the constant flow of questions from homeowners may be logical, it can also greatly impact and impede your operations as a solar business. Many solar businesses do a great job selling solar, but when it comes to communicating and building a positive customer experience, it’s easy to fall short of solar customers’ high expectations.
That’s why solar installers need a more effective and efficient means of communication that saves them time and money but which can also satisfy their customers' expectations to receive immediate project information. Fortunately, integrating a solar customer experience platform with their CRM and other business-critical systems can solve this exact pain point. Solar customer experience platforms can help installers level up their communications by automating many of the answers to common homeowner questions.
Although more homeowners are starting to understand solar energy as it goes mainstream, an information gap still exists. Let's take a look at specific questions that customers ask before and during the solar installation project.
Solar customers will want to know what comes next after signing a contract with you. Otherwise, they may think the immediate next step is seeing contractors at their homes with solar panels ready to mount. To combat these expectations, have your sales or ops team (or your automated customer experience platform!) explain the whole process to them, including steps like site assessment and permitting. When you arm homeowners with information about the next steps, you ensure your customers understand that progress is happening on their system, even if it’s not yet evident.
During the site assessment, your crew may realize there needs to be a home upgrade before the solar array can be installed. Naturally, homeowners will want to know what the specific changes are and why they are needed. Explain to them at the outset that some of the most common upgrades may include repairing any current roof damage and ensuring the roof structure is sound, or performing electrical panel upgrades.
If a customer needs to make significant changes, such as re-roofing, they may want to know if there are other options to consider. They’ll also want to know whether the necessary upgrades will delay the installation or if the changes can be made as other solar installation steps continue.
The design phase generates questions about how the panels will look on their roof, where they’ll be located, and what the solar panels will look like. Most homeowners want the panels to be less obvious and not take away from their home’s aesthetic but recognize the panels are substantial and conspicuous. This is a great time to send them design layouts or even 3D renderings of the proposed designs. You can also direct them to your portfolio of previous work so they can independently peruse and get a feel for how the system will look at the end of the project.
During the site assessment, your customers may inquire about any permits needed for solar installation. Some may already know significant changes require approval from the homeowner's association. However, even these discerning homeowners often forget about the other permits and regulatory approvals. You’ll have to remind your customers about these required utility permits, general electrical and photovoltaic permits, as well as any particular stipulations from their AHJs. Make sure you also include rough estimates of how long it takes to get each permit, as well as whether they’ve been issued.
As with any large project, homeowners want to know who to contact and who is responsible for what. They may also ask for contact information throughout the project, especially if the contact changes based on the project phase. Customer experience platforms, like ours, make these internal handoffs easy by providing the homeowner with one consistent point of contact — their friendly automated project manager, Bodhi!
Once you are through with the site assessment, and the customer has received all the necessary permits, it’s time for installation. This is where homeowners can get particularly antsy since they may have to adjust their schedule to accommodate your crew. For this reason, they’ll want to know the specific dates for installation, as well as how long the process will take.
At some point in the installation process, homeowners will inevitably ask when will the solar array be installed. They often ask for a timeline upfront, but even if you provide one at the outset, this question may bubble back up. As the project continues, homeowners crave regular updates on the status of the project and want to know when they can expect it to be complete. The questions around timelines often make up the bulk of homeowner inquiries and are the biggest impediment to your project managers getting other work done or having a manageable workload.
Of course, homeowners are curious about their investment and the solar installation process. During the actual installation, They may ask what crews are doing, why there is a delay, or why no one is working at their house that day. Like questions around the timeline, unless you get ahead of these questions through a customer experience platform, questions about the status of a project can quickly spiral out of control and end up causing havoc for your ops team.
As the project progresses, many homeowners are either excited about the process or simply want to know they are getting closer to completion. They typically contact you with questions asking what they can expect next and where their current stage puts them on the project timeline.
Most homeowners are under the impression that they can start using their solar immediately after you complete the installation. Of course, we in the industry know this is unfortunately not the case. Make sure you proactively explain to your homeowners that the local inspector first has to visit the site and check whether the installation is correct and up to code before giving the go-ahead to start producing solar energy.
If you don’t get ahead of this question, your customers may feel agitated by this delay—potentially leaving you with a negative review after an otherwise flawless installation. However, if you can proactively inform them of the role of a local inspector in ensuring their installation is safe and ready to begin producing electricity, you can turn this into a win for your solar business. Framed correctly, the inspection stage can help them feel confident that you are following all proper protocols, with no shortcuts. In addition, offering them an accurate timeframe for when this step will be completed will help them adjust their expectations.
Another step where homeowners feel anxious is when it’s time to get their system inspected by their utility company. Customers expect this step to be quick, considering they have done their part. However, depending on their utility company, the process can take much longer than expected. As with the other steps, explaining how this stage works and providing additional information about how the utility company is involved can help a homeowner appropriately set their expectations and feel comfortable with the process.
After they are set up with the utility company, customers often reach out to their installers to see how their panels are working, how much energy they’re producing, and how much they’re saving. If you have a solar experience platform like Bodhi, which offers this information in a user-friendly and well-designed customer portal, you can head off these questions entirely.
When it comes to solar, customers are always going to ask questions and raise their concerns. However, you can greatly reduce your operating costs as an installer and meet customer expectations by automating the responses to these questions and providing requested documents in a portal that homeowners can access at any time.
Solar customer experience platforms like Bodhi can help you achieve these goals. Our platform can integrate with your CRM, document repository, project management system and energy monitoring platforms. These integrations enable you to upload project notes and documents, as well as send automated emails or texts to customers, all in a white-labeled customer app.
Homeowners can also check their app whenever they want to see their project’s status, updates on crews, permit and inspection statuses, and even the weekly energy cost savings they can expect once their system goes online. Even better, a solar customer experience platform can help to reduce customer acquisition costs by automating customer review and referral requests, so that these asks go out whenever the homeowner is most likely to follow through.
A better communication system, like a solar customer experience platform, translates to happy customers and a faster installation process since you’re not hampered by the need to respond to every question personally. Since it also means dramatically fewer calls, emails and texts for your ops team to deal with, platforms like Bodhi can also lead to higher employee retention and satisfaction.
With solar gaining in popularity, the competition among solar installation companies is only getting more intense. One of the best ways to stand out and beat the competition is to provide an excellent customer experience. By automatically and proactively keeping your customers informed, you can win more homeowner referrals, build lasting relationships, and earn free marketing in the form of great reviews and referrals from happy customers.
Schedule a demo with Bodhi today to learn more about how our customer experience platform can set you apart and improve your operations.