The Solar Customer Journey, From the Customer’s Perspective
What customers are really experiencing at each step of the process
As we’ve written before, consumers in the Age of Amazon are characterized by the need for on-demand service, hyper-personalization, and the dynamic evolution of services being offered to them. Adding to the challenge for solar companies, customers also naturally bring emotion and irrationality into the buying experience, contrary to what we’d like to think.
In future posts, we’ll explore the sometimes irrational behavior of the solar consumer, but in this post, we focus on the customer’s emotional frame of mind as they navigate the multiple steps of the solar journey. We’ll take the temperature at each step of the journey, evaluate the character of this experience, and attempt to identify what solar customers are really experiencing along the solarcoaster.
Destination 1: Awareness
Whether through personal inquiries into solar, conversations with neighbors, or a knock on the door, most people bring a combination of curiosity, optimism, suspicion, guardedness or hubris to the table, a unique and often contradictory set of emotions. The promise of solar energy that you can own is compelling, but still foreign to the mass consumer. The customer is beginning to understand new energy terms and concepts that they may never have given much thought to or may never have been exposed. Add to it, customers bring to the discussion their preconceived notions of solar which can be many years outdated.
Customer’s Emotions: Curiosity, Optimism, Suspicion
Customer’s Excitement Level: 7/10
Did Bob just get solar?
Isn’t solar too expensive?
What’s the difference between a kW and a kWh?
Destination 2: Evaluating
At this point, the customer is trying to rationalize the decision to go solar and in the context of multiple providers, which company to engage. Many times, the customers are on their own in this step. Solar is a large financial commitment, and the decision is certainly not casual. Trepidation, confusion, and doubt are hallmarks of this stage and ultimately not a comfortable place to be. Even if the customer avails themself to resources like Energy Sage or online reviews, there are nuances to how this information is curated in the digital sphere which does not ensure 100% transparency or reassurance to the customer.
Customer’s Emotions: Trepidation, Confusion, Doubt
Customer’s Excitement Level: 3/10
All these bar graphs look impressive, but what do they really mean?
Why are these two quotes so different?
Should I just wait till next year?
Destination 3: Contracting
Assuming the doubt in step 2 is overcome, a decision is made. A sense of pride, optimism, and eagerness to begin define the initial step in this committed journey. The commitment that must be honored is not just what is laid out contractually but also what may have been promised by sales or interpreted by the customer. Furthermore, the goodwill memorialized in this step is held in a fragile balance with a short half-life of at most days.
Customer’s Emotions: Pride, Optimism, and Eagerness
Customer’s Excitement Level: 8/10
When does it get installed?
Destination 4: Design + Permitting
While this is a normal part of the process, this step takes time and depends on factors outside of the company’s control. Unfortunately, customers most of the time don’t make that distinction. In their mind, it's a single step and you're responsible. As a result, this time frame from contracting to installation can be characterized at best as a slow erosion of the excitement, or at worst, it can introduce a sense of mistrust, apprehension and resentment as any lingering distrust in the company bubbles up. Neither is positive, frankly.
Customer’s Emotions: Anxiousness, Distrust
Customer’s Excitement Level: 4/10
Have they forgotten about me?
Did I choose the right company?
Destination 5: Installation
At installation, the emotions from the previous step can be reversed. Often just the fact of seeing the technology being assembled by people doing hard physical work gives the customer a renewed buoyancy towards having made a good decision. It also puts the end of the journey in site and a renewed sense of eagerness begins to drive the demands of the customer.
Customer’s Emotions: Relief, Excitement
Customer’s Excitement Level: 9/10
Can you send me the photos of the system?
When can I turn the system on?
Destination 6: Inspection
The excitement from step 5 is short-lived. News that the system cannot be turned on immediately tempers the excitement just reached. Imagine when you were a kid, excitedly opening a gift, and you realize it didn’t come with batteries. For a customer, the remaining step involving outside parties with ill defined dates is torture. Again a slow erosion begins, but this time is compounded by the sense of a loss of benefit for each day of sunlight not harvested triggering remorse into frustration.
Customer’s Emotion: Frustration
Customer’s Excitement Level: 3/10
Why can’t I turn on the system?
When can I turn on my system?
Is there anything you can do to move it forward?
Destination 7: Powering Up
Finally, the hurdles of step 6 are overcome, and the champagne glasses come out. The switch is thrown and the alchemy of converting sunlight to a golden future is made real. In that moment, the experiences up that point are suspended and genuine joy bubbles up. However, the experience up to this point determines how long this golden hour can last. This euphoria may be fleeting or, if the journey has been managed well, it can propel the customer straight into advocacy.
Customer’s Emotions: Accomplishment, Joy
Customer’s Excitement Level: 10/10
Is my house really powered by the sun?
Can you take a photo of me in front of the system?
What do I have to do to keep this working?
Destination 8: Measuring
For many customers, this period may be characterized as a qualitative retelling of the journey or may be as rigorous as tracking the kwh production of the system against what was promised. In either case, some form of the customer's frame of mind at the start of the journey bears on the manner in which they measure their experience during this step. Continued engagement on the positive impact and benefits realized can help sustain the excitement of this step. However, any performance issues uncovered by the customer can undo any gains.
Customer’s Emotion: Satisfaction
Customer’s Excitement Level: 6/10
Was this a good decision?
Why do I still have an electricity bill?
Why didn’t you alert me that my system was down?
Destination 9: Advocacy
Every customer experiences this step in the journey, but it is not guaranteed whether the convert carries a positive or negative message. For a customer to become a true advocate for their choice to go solar, the sum of their experiences through all the steps in the journey must add up to be a net positive relative to their initial expectations at the start of the journey.
Fortunately, time and circumstance will typically improve the overall experience and result in customers speaking fondly of the choice. Even if their experience was not memorable, the accrual of benefits over time may enhance the experience even if it distances the customer from the solar company.
Customer’s Emotion: Boastful
Customer’s Excitement Level: 8/10
Who should I tell my neighbor to contact at the company?
What about these batteries I keep hearing about?
Your customers will inevitably go through an emotional rollercoaster. To help modulate those emotions, it’s important to set expectations at the beginning of the journey and reiterate those expectations all throughout the journey. Customer experience platforms like Bodhi can help in this process.
Then as Todd Capone says in the podcast: Accelerating Sales with Unexpected Honesty, always be slightly better than those expectations and you’ll blow your customers away.
If you're interested in learning more about Bodhi and delivering amazing customer experiences without having to hire an entire customer support team, contact us.