In the course of our work, we were introduced to a regional installer. We checked out the their website and noticed that it spoke of how they focus on the customer. "Great," we thought. "They’re doing it right!" Then we checked out their Google reviews and saw they had a 3.4 rating. Apparently, the customers didn't agree with the company's message. Despite the promise of next-level customer service, somewhere there was clearly a disconnect. What the installer perceived as going above and beyond was just business as usual for their average customer.
In a competitive marketplace like solar, it isn't good enough to simply provide a quality service. You need to exceed expectations and provide your customers with an experience that goes above and beyond the one provided by your competitors. A customer’s experience with your company is part of what determines how good your reviews are, how successful your referral programs are, and how likely homeowners are to repeat their business with you for future projects like batteries or second homes.
While you must still provide quality work to create a great customer experience, many other factors go into the process as well. In this post, we'll explain what metrics you should use to track your customer experience, as well as how to recognize key areas for improvement.
1. The average time from contract to installation completion
We live in an age of instant gratification. And while a quality solar installation doesn't happen overnight, homeowners don't want to feel as though your team are dragging their feet either. Tracking your average time from the start of a contract to installation completion allows you to measure how efficient your team is and how you’re doing at maintaining an acceptable timeframe.
Tracking this metric also gives you important data that you can further use to improve customer satisfaction for future deals. A homeowner is more willing to wait an extended period of time if you're upfront about how long the project will take in the first place. When you know the average time it takes to complete a project for a particular time of year or area, you can more accurately communicate expectations to customers.
In addition, you'll be able to better plan projects by having a precise idea of when your crews will have wrapped their current work and be available to start on a new project.
2. The average time between project updates
Not knowing what's going on can make the wait for something seem longer than it is. When homeowners get frequent updates about the status of a project — even if those updates are “no update” updates — it makes their wait time feel less frustrating. As you work on getting your actual wait times for project completion lower, you can reduce the perception of that wait by keeping in communication with the homeowner during the process.
If the time between communication is too long, you're going to get customers who feel out of the loop and thus compelled to call your offices to get a status update. This places extra friction on the homeowner and takes time away from your staff that could be spent on more productive tasks. A customer who feels the need to call in to understand what's going on with their project might even leave you a negative review that impacts future sales.
Like many other metrics, it's easy to get into the trap of thinking you can just go by gut feeling to measure how you're performing here. But keeping actual records helps you have more transparency into your customer experience efforts. It also helps you notice when a homeowner might be slipping through the cracks due to broader project delays beyond your team’s control.
Ideally, you want to be communicating with customers at least once a week — even if it's just a filler update. Tracking this metric and working to improve your communication cadence will help keep your entire team on track and improve your customer experience across the board.
3. Customer satisfaction score/reviews score
One of the best ways to understand how homeowners feel is to simply ask them. Customer experience surveys provide a realistic and accurate look into how homeowners perceive the level of service you're providing. By analyzing these surveys at various points in the project, you can get a better sense of where in the project your customer experience efforts may be falling behind. Often, there’s a specific project phase that requires more hands-on work for project managers, leaving them less time for customer communications.
These customer satisfaction surveys can also help you to boost your referral rates. Through survey feedback, you can identify early on when a homeowner is all in and ready to start referring. Customers who are happy with your service are more likely to be willing to refer your company to their acquaintances, and surveys help you know when to time those conversations about referral programs.
All of your customers should be aware of your referral program, but potential champions are prime candidates to be contacted directly about sending you referrals.
Of course, manually sending these customer experience surveys can cost your staff a lot of time. Just as you want to save time by automating regular updates to homeowners instead of waiting for their phone call, automating your surveys will ensure you aren't trading one form of unproductivity for another.
4. Number of referrals
So far, we've talked a lot about how you can improve your referrals. It stands to reason then, that tracking those referrals is an important metric for success. This matters from a general business perspective because, of course, increasing referrals leads to a lower cost of customer acquisition (CAC), as well as a higher lifetime customer value (LTV). Referred customers also tend to only ask for a single quote and therefore leads to higher priced deals, becoming invested early on because of the trust that was passed down from the person who referred them.
In addition to spending more, referred customers are also 18% more loyal. Bringing in these kinds of customers, who are more likely to appreciate your customer service and in turn refer their friends, will help boost your business and maintain organic growth over time.
The bottom line here is that happy customers are more likely to refer you to other people. If only a very small number of your customers are referring, it's a sign that something is off with the service you're providing them. You can use your customer surveys to help identify where the problem is and take steps to improve it.
5. Referrals per customer
While overall referrals can tell you a lot about how the homeowners you’re serving are feeling about your company, leading you to necessary adjustments, you can get more granular with your referral tracking as well.
Referral tracking per customer gives you insight into where the champions of your brand are. Is Sally referring your company to friends left and right? Is Dave still referring a few years post-installation? Use these insights to continue to nourish your customer relationships and keep referrals growing.
In addition to identifying your brand champions, referrals per customer can also help you identify interesting trends with your team. Which sales team members or project managers tend to come out of their customer interactions smelling like a rose with homeowners – bringing you a line of referrals in the process? Take a close look at their success and use it to help coach other team members to improve their referral rates as well.
6. NPS (net promoter score)
Your net promoter score is similar to your customer satisfaction rating in that it relies on a survey of actual customers to calculate. However, instead of asking them how satisfied with your service they are, you ask how likely they are to recommend your service to someone else. Tracking this score will help you determine how well your efforts to improve your referral rates are working.
The average NPS for solar businesses ranges between 25-52. Industry leaders like Sunrun and SunPower have scores of 64 and 51, respectively. The average score of installers using Bodhi is 77. If your scores are on the lower end, it's a sign that your customer experience isn't as great as it could be.
7. Cancellation rates
The surest sign a customer isn't getting an experience they appreciate is that they cancel their installation. This typically happens after the contract signing but before the installation has begun. Cancellations can ruin your reputation in the industry. Having too many of them requires quick action to improve the situation.
The most common reason for cancellations is that the solar sales representative was dishonest or pushed the customer into a contract before they were ready. While many of the metrics tracked will leave you searching for where in the process things went wrong, a high cancellation rate is almost certainly down to an issue with how you sell to customers.
This is perhaps where the importance of customer experience is best illustrated. Having pushy and dishonest salespeople may give you a higher close rate, but if cancellations are high and customers who don't cancel are unsatisfied, you're ultimately sabotaging your own business. By focusing on keeping customers happy rather than simply inflating close numbers, your staff will create better long-term security for the company.
Start increasing customer satisfaction today with communication and automation
We've given you a lot of metrics to track. Each will provide additional insight into how your customers perceive your business. By actively working to improve each of these metrics and tracking the results, you'll have a built-in roadmap for how to grow your solar business.
Bodhi's platform for solar businesses can help by automating communication with your customers, improving homeowner perceptions of your company, and saving you time. Our specialized platform will also help you track all of these metrics and provide you with a monthly email breaking down how each is progressing. To learn more about how Bodhi can help your solar business, schedule a free demo today.