The solar industry is getting increasingly competitive, so understandably sales and customer acquisition are a top priority for solar companies. But focusing too much on the sales side and failing to prioritize quality at all stages of the customer’s experience after they sign on the dotted line is a costly mistake.
While delivering excellence takes some time and attention, it is this long-term approach that will lead to satisfied customers who can’t wait to tell their friends and neighbors about going solar with your company. In today’s article, we highlight some of the processes and protocols that are central to delivering a good customer experience at each stage of the customer’s interaction with your solar company.
For insights, we spoke with staff at Baker Electric Solar , a leading solar installation company in the San Diego area. The company has won the Better Business Bureau’s International Torch Award for Ethics and the Angie’s List Super Service Award. With over 60% of its business coming from customer referrals, it’s safe to say that Baker knows a thing or two about how customer service can provide a competitive edge.
Communication is Key
As with any relationship, effective communication provides the foundation of a good rapport between companies and their customers. Good communication is essential at all stages of the customer experience—from the first sales call to the the completion of the installation and beyond. There a few key elements of effective communication with customers:
One of the most important elements of communication that will lead to satisfied customers is that it is frequent and regular. For Baker, this means being in touch with the customer and providing updates at a minimum of every two weeks—even in cases where there may be an expected pause in the progression of the project.
Set clear expectations
It’s also essential that customers have a clear understanding of what to expect at the outset—from the timeline for the installation and the steps that will be involved to the design of the installation and the chosen components.
Project Manager Tim Finn explains that for Baker Electric Solar, one of the most important parts of their communication with the customer is providing a detailed overview of the system design at the outset. “We send that out to the customer and get their sign-off on it, making sure that they've reviewed the plans, they understand what the layout is going to look like, and they approve of it. That way, if there are any questions ... we can answer them then, versus when we're on the job site.”
Successful communication also means anticipating any potential challenges in the project and communicating early and often about them so that the customer and contractor are always on the same page.
These principles underpin all aspects of the customer’s experience; however, there are other key factors that define great customer service at different stages in the customer's process of going solar.
Service from the Start
Building a relationship with the customer begins at the sales stage, and a central element of good service at this point is taking the time to understand the customer’s needs and goals. Service Manager Josh Lennard explains that, during the sales process, Baker “works with the customer to understand their expectations, their needs, and goals that they have for getting solar.”
This involves “talking about the equipment, their savings, their consumption history, the design ideas that might be available to them…. The communication at that point, is very nurturing with the customer; you're building a relationship... and thinking out of the box if needed in order to meet their goals.”
At the conclusion of the sales stage, the customer should have clear understanding of what to expect going forward.
Managing for Customer Satisfaction
The next step in delivering a great customer experience depends upon effective management of the project's implementation. In addition to being proactive about updating the customer on the project’s progression and communicating in advance about potential challenges, being accessible to the customer is a key element of customer service for Baker. This might mean designating a point person who will be responsible for promptly answering any questions.
Of course, customer satisfaction is contingent upon installation quality so attention to detail in the design is crucial. Software like Aurora that offers validated shading analysis and energy production estimates, and checks for NEC violations and other design errors can be a valuable tool.
Finally, ending the installation phase on a strong note is also important. For Baker, a key element of this is the project hand-off, in which they have a final meeting with the customer and help them understand what to expect going forward.
Lennard explains that at the end of the installation, “Someone goes out to walk them through the system and show them exactly how it works so the customer is not confused. It also gives us a last chance to confirm that nothing is wrong and to answer any remaining questions that the customer may have. That way we can leave them with a positive impression,” says Lennard. This process also lets Baker highlight their post-installation service.
Another key way companies can differentiate themselves with customers is through the way that they support their customers and guarantee their work after the project is completed. For Baker, this involves a robust warranty program including a 10-year standard warranty of system components and workmanship; energy production monitoring systems for customers; as well as an extended 25-year inverter warranty.
In the rare event that a customer experiences an issue, a quick resolution makes them happy to have selected a company that is there for them over the long term—and much more likely to refer their friends and family.
This attention to customer satisfaction at all stages is central to Baker’s ability to acquire a significant portion of their customers through referrals. Incorporating some of these approaches can enhance your company’s reputation and provide a competitive edge.