Stop us if you’ve heard this before: The market for solar installations is extremely competitive. Companies in the industry have to do everything they can to get a leg up on the competition.
But many installers are missing a relatively easy way to generate new business: creating the best possible customer experience. Creating this experience involves educating new prospects, setting clear expectations, and delivering promised results.
And while a great experience will certainly help close current deals, happy clients can also help generate referral business by referring new leads to your company — and these leads have a low cost of acquisition and high level of established trust.
To help your solar company generate more business and earn new referrals, this blog will cover:
- Why the solar customer experience is important
- What solar customers want in a sales scenario
- How to provide exceptional service and earn referral business
Why is the solar customer experience important?
The process of going solar typically involves months of planning and lead time. And despite its growing prominence around the world, most people don’t fully understand how it works.
As going solar is still a first-time endeavor for most homeowners, your reps have to educate new prospects on how they can uniquely benefit from PV energy while making the process of adoption as easy as possible.
By committing to open and honest communication, solar companies can establish a working relationship with a new customer before a contract is signed, and seamlessly guide them through the entire installation process.
By keeping communication open and real, businesses can ensure that every step of the project is completed to the client’s satisfaction and they are never left with any questions about their solar install. After all, if a customer believes in their purchase, they are much more likely to recommend it to someone else.
As with any home project, customers tend to talk about their experience with friends, family, neighbors, and anyone else within earshot. So make sure that when they talk about their project they’ll include how helpful the installer was, how all their questions were answered, and how the system has delivered on the promised savings.
Not only will happy customers help generate new referrals, but always working to create a good customer experience will also help businesses avoid bad online reviews that could permanently damage your local reputation.
Get to know your prospect: What does a solar customer want?
Many people these days and businesses are turning to solar energy as a long-term alternative to utility power. According to a study on the consumer perceptions of the solar industry, 78% of homeowners without solar believe it could help reduce their energy bills.
And while almost 80% of the respondents had considered going solar in the past, less than half of the interested homeowners surveyed had actually reached out and learned more from a local company.
This means that many solar customers are a clean slate. You have the opportunity to deliver a personalized solar customer experience that will build client confidence and increase the likelihood of a sale and referral.
What do solar customers really want?
While we’d all like to save the planet, if someone tells you that they are “going green” by installing solar panels, they may actually be talking about saving money.
Among those who would consider going solar, a staggering 65.8% of homeowners cite financial savings as their number one motive. In a distant second and third place, making the world cleaner (18.6%) and becoming energy independent (15.6%) follow as the next two most popular reasons for considering solar energy.
The larger takeaway is that every homeowner is different. So, the first step has to be determining what each specific customer is interested in.
Aurora recently conducted research that identified 5 main types of solar consumer, each with different wants and needs. Identifying what type of customer you’re selling to is the first part of delivering a great experience.
Once you know the type of customer you’re working with, you need to deliver a personalized proposal with their specific needs in mind. Tailoring your proposal to their interests, and working with them to design the perfect system for their needs leads to more happy customers, which leads to more referrals.
Clearing up misconceptions
Unfortunately, most people still believe that going solar is an expensive endeavor. Even worse, over 30% of the homeowners aren’t sure or don’t believe that solar companies are honest and upfront about pricing.
You can bridge this disconnect with open and honest communication to help customers adopt solar with confidence while clearing up any existing misconceptions.
A recent study on the theory of planned behavior found that most new customers actually have a low awareness of solar costs, and may not even know about the availability of incentives, rebates, and options with low or no upfront payment.
So, for example, going through the actual costs and incentives available, then discussing the customer’s utility bill data, you can help prospects think about the money they are already spending on electricity bills, and introduce solar as a cheaper alternative.
See our 3-part series for additional sales insights and more information on the social and psychological aspects of the solar customer acquisition process,
3 key ways to create a great solar customer experience
Almost as much as savings, the relationship you cultivate with your prospects is a huge part of delivering a great customer experience. But how do you foster these relationships?
Above all else, you need clear and consistent communication to create the best possible solar customer experience.
While going solar may seem like a grueling undertaking to some homeowners, a company representative’s ability to simplify the process and educate their prospects will help close more deals.
During a solar consultation, the floor should always remain open for questions and sales reps must be able to adapt proposals in response to individual customer concerns.
No matter what kind of solar buyer they may be, each customer has a unique set of ideas of how solar works and why or why not it would help them. With constant communication, sales reps can ensure no stone is left unturned while guiding prospects toward the finish line.
Of course, you’re rarely the only company trying to sell solar to any given customer. To show that your company will do what it takes to earn new business, solar reps must be proactive in their approach to quality customer service.
Tied in with constant communication, proactive outreach to new customers creates an opportunity for companies to establish themselves as industry experts. Once a contract is signed, customers that receive regular updates about their installations are much more likely to have a better experience than those waiting around for the next step to be completed without a real idea of the project timeline.
Set clear expectations
And lastly, setting and communicating clear project expectations is key to guaranteeing a good solar customer experience.
While anyone can make promises in a sales pitch, actually delivering on project expectations will determine whether or not a customer is satisfied enough to recommend a company’s services.
With so many moving parts involved, it is up to the solar company to effectively communicate how customers can anticipate the installation process to go, how well they can expect their system to perform, and what to do if anything goes wrong.
Once these expectations are met or exceeded, good customer experiences can then transform even the most skeptical customers into champions of your brand.
Using technology to enhance the solar customer experience
It’s hard for us to believe, but talking about electricity can be downright boring for some people. And if a solar installation sounds like it will take too much time and energy to consider, a lot of uninterested homeowners simply wonder, “Why bother?”
To keep new prospects interested, you have to use engaging technology in your sales meetings, with workflows designed to create an enthralling solar customer experience.
Earn customer trust
By leveraging today’s best technology, solar companies can instantly earn customer trust with real-world data delivered in seconds.
For example, some customers prefer to do research themselves before speaking with a company rep. This is where tools like Lead Capture AI can help you generate more leads, while making sure customers can interact with your company on their terms.
By entering just an address and an estimated bill, Lead Capture AI shows your customers what solar could look like on their home and how much they could save — all from your own website.
This means potential customers can do their research on your website and ultimately qualify themselves as leads — all while seeing your company as an educational resource that met them where they are.
Streamline your sales process
From the first point of contact to signing on the bottom line, the process of adopting solar consists of many unique steps, with engineering and sales teams all working together to create a good customer experience.
Leveraging accurate, built-in LIDAR maps, tools like Aurora’s Sales Mode helps sales reps confidently design a great system, without having to worry about engineers from your company coming back and climbing on the roof to obtain accurate measurements. By getting it right the first time, you can avoid change orders that would potentially drive up project costs or create a bad customer experience if you can’t meet your initial promises.
Complete with integrated financing options, dynamic contract templates, and e-signature capabilities, Sales Mode can help solar companies streamline their acquisition process with the power to close more deals on the spot.
To learn more about the platform, check out our Intro to Sales Mode webinar, which takes an in-depth look at how the software works to help close fast and accurate solar sales.
The value of post-installation solar customer service
Like many other home improvements, a solar energy system is typically considered with long-term results in mind. As modern solar panels can efficiently generate electricity for 20, 25, and even 30 years, post-installation service is even more critical to overall customer satisfaction when considering the lifespan of most systems.
To set yourself up for success, solar companies should always confirm that new customers fully understand how their system works, how to monitor performance, and every part of the installation that is covered in the warranties.
While solar panel installations are typically very low-maintenance, occasionally things do go wrong, and system components can malfunction and break from time to time. If a system goes offline, customers will always appreciate a solar company that can respond quickly and promptly fix an issue.
5 ways to turn happy solar customers into referrals
Now that you have a satisfied client, you’ve completed the biggest hurdle in getting referrals. But, it isn’t always going to happen on its own. Even if you have a long history of satisfied clients, top-notch customer service, and high-quality work alone are simply not enough to achieve consistent word-of-mouth business.
So how do you consistently get solid customer referrals? Well, every customer is different, but here are 5 key things to remember when generating peer-to-peer leads.
Create easy ways for customers to talk about your service
The best thing you can do to get a customer to recommend your business is to simply make it easy for them to do so. Begin by providing a template for customers to share their experience with their peers that is easy to implement and duplicate.
This could include a link to share their proposal directly with friends and family, or suggestions on where and how to post 5-star reviews on social media and around the web.
Ask first, then follow-up quickly
To increase the likelihood of potential referrals, a lot of the time, you simply just have to ask. While maintaining a relationship with a customer in the final stages of an installation, scheduled checks on project status and system performance can often be complemented with a referral inquiry.
Studies show that closing a new solar sale is more likely with a fast lead follow-up time, so contacting customers directly after their referrer has gone solar can help you capitalize on the moment when interest in a new installation is at its highest.
Experiment with timing and phrasing
Although it can be a bit awkward to ask for the names and contact information of people in a customer’s life, this should not stop solar companies from trying to generate new referrals.
While happy customers can certainly provide a company’s contact information to their friends, family, and neighbors, walking away from a conversation with a tangible lead significantly increases the chances to get in touch with new prospects.
When asking for referrals, try to guide the conversation towards the question naturally, and present it as a no-obligation opportunity for customers to help others benefit from solar as well.
If a customer is drawing a blank or does not feel comfortable referring anyone personally, this is obviously not the end of the world. Simply document what you learn, share your experience with your team, and continue to experiment with how and when to ask for new customer referrals.
Provide incentives for new referrals
Of course, no matter how much they enjoyed their experience, most customers are more likely to help you drum up new business if an incentive is available for providing new referrals.
In addition to direct cash payments, solar companies can get creative when developing referral programs with incentives like gift cards or discounted services designed to encourage participation. And don’t forget the value of two-way incentives — giving cash to both the person who does the referring, and the person who is referred to you.
In addition to direct peer-to-peer referrals, you can also give incentives to customers who choose to share their good experiences on social media or an online review platform.
Don’t give up too soon
And last but not least, companies should not give up too soon on solar leads or referrals.
Solar systems protect homeowners against rising utility rates for years, so some solar customers may even become even more satisfied with their purchase over time and will recommend a company years after an installation is complete.
By consistently following up with existing customers and new leads alike, solar companies implementing a successful outreach program with phone calls, emails, or texts are more likely to generate new business so long as they stay in contact with happy customers and interested prospects.
In conclusion, knowing what solar customers want and always providing consistent, honest communication can help companies fortify relationships, close deals, and generate new referrals.
By using today’s best technology to always deliver a great experience, solar companies can comfortably approach new sales scenarios and make going solar as easy and valuable as possible for their customers.
Want to improve your solar customer experience? Take a tour of the all Aurora Solar has to offer to see how we can help.
Featured image by Sasun Bughdaryan.