Who are the solar customers of today? What solar business owners need to know

As solar has evolved, so have solar customers
Author : 
October 7, 2022

While in the past solar customers have been predominantly higher-income households, a study from Berkeley Lab in 2021 showed that the industry is changing.  As more homes adopt solar, lower to middle-income homes now make up a considerable market share.  The same study also found that while solar adoption at lower income levels increased, customers who purchased host-owned systems and battery storage still trended toward affluent, single-family households.

Sounds confusing, but those of us in solar know that the only constant in this industry is change.  Just as PV systems have now become more accessible, so too will batteries, EVs, and other home electrification technologies.  We’re entering the age of mass adoption, meaning that solar businesses have an incredible opportunity to capitalize on this changing market.  

However, in order to capture this next wave of solar customers, as well as retain your current homeowners, you need to be able to meet (if not exceed) their expectations. That’s why the modern solar business needs a customer service solution to help you deliver an excellent buyer experience every time.  This blog article will explain who the solar customers of today are, what you can do to win new solar buyers’ business, and how to leverage technology to form lifelong, profitable customer relationships.

What groups make up solar customers?

While early adopters of solar energy were primarily affluent single-family homeowners, a few industry-wide factors have helped bring down the price.  The increased efficacy of panels, the decreased cost of the technology, and a shrinking barrier of entry to solar installation have all worked together to open the market to low and middle-income households.  

Today, information is abundant and accessible on the internet to educate first-time buyers on the savings and benefits of solar technology, making it easier to research and motivating consumers to invest in this technology.  Installation costs have decreased to nearly half in the last 20 years, and panels are more efficient and less costly due to advancements in silicon refining.  

Equipment can be financed on a modest income and excess power can be sold back to the grid.  Homeowners can also appreciate that their investment will last several decades and increase the value of their home.

Indeed, price and information factors have come together to make solar energy available to a range of households.  In fact, solar adoption increased nearly 300 times worldwide from 2000 to 2019.  However, high-income homeowners still make up a large proportion of solar customers.  For solar businesses, these core clients offer considerable long-term value, as they’re more likely to purchase high-cost solar systems as well as add-ons like battery storage.  

High-income homeowners are also more likely to contact your company again for upgrades and replacements over their lifetime if you form a good relationship.  Obviously, repeat customers, regardless of their income level, are the best kinds of solar customers.  They have a high lifetime value and provide a better return on investment (ROI) for the significant amount you invest in their initial service.  They also help bring down your customer acquisition costs by referring friends, family, and coworkers to your business.

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

What solar companies need to know to provide better customer service

Because solar customers have increased in quantity and diversity, the investment required from a solar business to acquire homeowners can still be very high, with an average cost per customer reaching $3000 and up.  

Knowing your potential customers and what is motivating them to choose solar can help bring down this cost by allowing you to be more targeted in your marketing.  It will also help you deliver a better experience and ensure you are nurturing long-term customer relationships.  Of course, there are many reasons to go solar.  Some households are looking into solar to save on their electricity costs, others to help the environment, and others to gain energy independence.  

In addition to understanding why a customer wants to go solar, prioritizing personalized communication with your homeowners and educating them can help you keep valuable customers satisfied.  Great customer communication can also generate a higher ROI over the lifetime of your business-client relationship.  Let's give best practices for delivering a satisfying customer experience so that you can increase the odds that your homeowners will want to do business with your solar company again.

Nurture those high-value leads and referrals

Trying to please every prospective customer can be a costly mistake in the solar business.  Your sales representatives should try to distinguish between consumers gathering information with little intention of buying and high-value clients.  The majority of your time and financial investment should be spent on leads that have high buying intent.  

After all, ultimately your resources for everything from installing solar panels to answering questions are limited.  The ideal client wants most or all of the services you offer, providing a high lifetime value for both of you.  These types of long-term customers are also more likely to engage in your solar referral program, sending you valuable leads and further bringing down your cost customer acquisition.  

Communicate value over price

Value goes hand in hand with being intentional about your customers.  Buyers looking for the lowest price will likely not generate a high lifetime value for your business.  Instead, they will search for the lowest price company for their next service or installation.  

Instead of marketing your products and services based on price, show prospective clients the value your company provides over the competition.  Focus on the core competencies of your business, like better customer service, precise installation, clear communication, and quality products.

Invest in your crew

Consistency is a primary factor in providing better customer service.  High-value clients who have had an excellent experience with their solar installation want their next service to meet or exceed their expectations as well.  Your team should have consistent, high-quality training to deliver a seamless customer experience every time.  

Consistency ensures buyers will want to return to your services for the lifetime of their photovoltaic system, battery storage, and replacement systems.  A consistently positive experience is critical to satisfying clients and generating a high lifetime value for both solar businesses and customers.

Increase customer interactions post-install with better monitoring tools

Checking in on your customers after installation keeps your business fresh in their minds and keeps them warm for post-installation sales conversations.  One of the high points of the solarcoaster is when homeowners get to see the pay-off from their investment in solar energy first-hand.  By monitoring their power generation and consumption habits, they see real proof of solar’s power.

Solar asset management tools also offer a unique opportunity for your solar company to sell products and services to the customers you have already invested in acquiring. New leads require considerable investment for an uncertain return.  Instead of pumping additional marketing spend into lead acquisition, grow your business through customers you have already invested in and delivered an excellent experience to.  The trick is to be customized and proactive.  As your customers' power consumption habits change,  your monitoring tool should empower you to offer them a specific solution, thus generating additional business.  

Streamline the solar customer experience

Are you still using pen and paper for customer leads and processing?  Because of the price of solar, and the bar set by companies like Amazon, solar buyers expect a streamlined experience.  If you are not offering electronic and on-demand installation updates, documentation, signature requests, and monitoring, you may not be making the best impression.  

After all, customers can order food on demand, track their delivery progress, and receive their delivery all using a streamlined app.  Would you expect to pay thousands of dollars for a high-tech solar installation and not get an experience on par with a food delivery service?

In addition to this, paper forms and constant phone calls can be inefficient, slow, and forfeit your opportunity to sell post-installation services effectively or make referrals easy for your customers to initiate.  

Keeping all your communications in one centralized, easily-accessible location allows your business to be fresh in the minds of customers.  It also opens up the door to sell post-installation.  A user-friendly portal for tracking installation progress and monitoring energy production, along with an avenue for referring friends, creates an experience that enables clients to more easily reach out to your business later.

Related: 4 ways monitoring data can earn your solar business more money

How a customer platform can help you improve your relationship with customers

A customer experience platform is essential in providing clients with the quick, on-demand, and personalized services they expect.  The software should integrate with your CRM to streamline all processes.  

Many software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions provide customer service automation, but few have optimization for the solar workflow.  Your business can save money and deliver more value to the client with an all-in-one solution for the entire solar customer experience.

This digital solution can help you answer frequently asked questions immediately, keeping your phone lines from being overwhelmed while delivering a better experience.  It can also help clients track the progress of their installation.  Even better, your sales team will have more time to nurture leads rather than spending their time answering basic questions from current customers.

A great customer experience platform will also free up time for your project managers by streamlining their workload.  PMs can determine what to share with clients through the customer portal, such as status and project notes and automate updates instead of needing to manually reach out at certain milestones.  

Post-installation, a good customer platform should continue to show its value.   Regardless of whether a month or a year has passed since a customer’s installation, the ideal platform will have an easy-to-navigate referral program in place for whenever the customer needs it.

Provide better customer service with an all-in-one solar customer experience platform

Excellent customer service results in repeat clients and referrals.  A poor experience often results in a buyer choosing another solar company for their next solar installation or home electrification purchase, meaning you have to invest in a new lead to replace that customer.  

Command a higher ROI from every lead and generate higher lifetime value from your clients by tailoring your customer service experience to their needs.  Buyers expect information about their solar investment to be available online and on-demand.  An online platform will provide better overall service and communication and will keep your solar company in front of customers for the long haul.  

Bodhi provides your company with everything you need to deliver consistent and excellent client service.  The solar customer experience platform lets buyers track the progress of their solar installation and monitor the system post-install.  Bodhi creates long-term customers who will purchase from your company for decades after their first project completion.  

You can send reminders to clients when they might need to upgrade and drive referrals to help you gain even more high-value customers.  Bodhi can integrate within your existing CRM and lets you monitor your fleet and every ongoing project for improved oversight.  Schedule a demo to see how you can start delivering better customer service today.

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