We find ourselves at a fundamental inflection point where the rules of the game in so many aspects of our lives, our business, and our future are being rewritten. In particular, the energy industry is being turned inside out, driven in large part by the millions of people making the switch from the old ways of consuming energy to the new offerings of distributed renewables. Navigating these changes for both the solar service companies- and those they serve - The New Energy Consumers- demands new understandings and new tools to capitalize on this transformation, and deliver the solar energy experience consumers expect.
The customer is dead
By this, we mean the customer of the decades prior that simply bought the things that we sold. Fast forward to today, the power of social networks, access to data, technological choices and the shared economy has birthed a new ethos. Out of the ashes has emerged a new, more powerful consumer.
Look no further than technology companies like Amazon, Uber, and Netflix, and their meteoric rise. They are both championing and reinforcing this new consumer behavior. In particular, they have raised consumers’ expectations. They have taught us to expect that the information or services we want can be and should be accessible on-demand, at the tap of our fingers. They have taught us to expect hyper-personalized content and choices, otherwise, we’d simply ignore them. And they have taught us that consumers are now in the driver’s seat.
Coupled with the underlying change in consumer behavior is the acute shift in the solar industry from early adopters to the mass market. Gone are the days where customer acquisition costs were low and transactional sales to these highly-tolerant early adopters were a viable business strategy.
And electric utilities have not made the solar industry’s transition to the mass market any easier. Historically, energy utilities did not have “customers,” they had “ratepayers.” The only interaction between a ratepayer and their electric utility is through paying a bill once per month that is riddled with terms, abbreviations, and pricing columns that are not easily understood, causing us to doubt and lose trust in our energy providers. It’s no wonder that an often-cited Accenture report found that the average consumer spends only 8 minutes per year interacting with their energy company.
The new energy consumer
Success in this new Age of Amazon means successfully meeting the demands of the New Energy Consumer and their expectations of their energy experience. A challenge we face is - how can we meet the energy engagement expectations of these New Energy Consumers while acknowledging that the majority of them are not “energy geeks?” We as industry professionals know that energy in general and more specifically the details of our service are inherently interesting and compelling, but the New Energy Consumers are just getting used to this new regime.
Although energy is invisible, the benefits and agency it provides are manifest in all aspects of our lives. When consumers can harness it themselves, they will want to see and control these benefits and the positive impacts it is having on their own lives and those around them. And they will ask these questions that must be answered accurately and conveniently:
Is my solar system working? How well is it working? Does it need service?
How much of my life is powered by the sun?
What kind of impact am I making?
How well is my community doing?
Can I tell my friends about it?
Can I compare how I’m doing against my friends?
How can I change my behavior to maximize my benefits?
What else can I do?
And as more and more energy products and services become available, new sets of questions will arise and need to be addressed. Companies need tools that can evolve over time and provide a platform for engaging the consumer’s evolving demands. Solar software solutions and solar apps designed specifically from the New Energy Consumers’ perspective may be able to help answer these questions, especially for solar companies looking to scale efficiently.
Beyond the deal - Leveraging the 25+ year solar customer relationship
We are accustomed to referring to a successful commercial transaction as a closed deal. This is short sighted and fails to recognize that the customer relationship with the New Energy Consumer is just beginning. In addition to higher expectations, consumers are now looking for constant value from the purchases they do make. This opens up new revenue opportunities as their journey continues once the system is powered on and the benefits become apparent. The New Energy Consumers will want and need to purchase additional energy products in the future - repowered modules, batteries, EV charging, energy efficiency, and more. And sales to existing customers are generally 7-10x more profitable than new customer sales, an imperative for a solar industry with rising customer acquisition costs and decreasing margins. And these New Energy Consumers will want to share their solar energy experience with their friends and provide referrals to the solar companies that have most gained their trust.
Therefore, what was thought of as the close of a deal is actually an opening. It is the chance to make the first and best impression on a partner in what can be a long term and lucrative relationship.
Co-Evolution - The new energy consumer and the future solar company
At , we recognize that a single button cannot ensure that solar companies can successfully navigate the changes in the industry and the changes in the consumer. Nor do we presume that each company has to reinvent its business model to stay relevant. We do assert that a different attitude towards the consumer must be embraced. Bodhi is a solar customer experience platform to make this type of relationship more accessible.
The consumer is in charge, but they need our help to make the most out of their choices. In the process, the solar company should also benefit while offering best in class solar customer service. By giving the New Energy Consumer additional tools of empowerment, like Bodhi and its personalized customer portal for solar installers, the potential for a long, fruitful relationship is possible. A solar company can co-evolve with each individual consumer without compromising their ability to grow their customer base more robustly.
If you're interested in learning more about the new energy consumer, contact us.