What the coronavirus teaches us about communicating with solar customers
Updated: Apr 20
Like for you, the past month has been a whirlwind for me keeping track of news on the coronavirus. I kept asking “What’s the latest?” and “What do we have to do next?”, two questions I found surprisingly similar to the questions I had when going solar. Thinking about the coronavirus situation and the solar customer journey, we can draw two lessons about communicating with our solar customers.
Lesson 1: Set expectations at the beginning. Otherwise, people will set their own, many times unrealistic, expectations. When we started hearing about the coronavirus in January or February, few news reports warned of it spreading to the US and if they did, many said it was similar to the flu. Fast forward to today where a near total shutdown of the US economy caught businesses and the 10 million Americans who filed for unemployment the last 2 weeks off guard.
For solar customers, the impact is not dire, but the emotions they experience along the 3 to 4 month solar rollercoaster are real. When we don’t meet their expectations (unrealistic or not), this leads to disappointment and for some types of customers, easily leads to conflict between them and your staff. And if your staff has to deal with angry or complaining customers often, expect them to be less likely to make or take that next customer phone call.
By setting clear, realistic expectations at the beginning of the project, we set a baseline for the customers’ emotions and can easier manage the ups and downs along the process. And when we’re able to fulfill these expectations (which is probably 95% of time), we win the customers’ trust.
Lesson 2: Communicate timely and regularly. Otherwise, people will start making their own assumptions about what’s going on. Initially with the coronavirus, we didn’t know, “Who had it? How do we prevent it? How long will this last?” This led to mass panic and the stockpiling of among other things, toilet paper. Fortunately, experts are now providing us real-time information and answers. And not surprisingly, we’re acting smartly and towards a collective goal in line with our US values.
For solar customers, the thought process is the same. When figuratively left in the dark, they’ll make their own assumptions, many times incorrect, about their project, about your company, or even you. Given the long duration of the installation & commissioning process and the multitude of other stakeholders (financiers, utilities, HOAs, etc.), there are lots of moments where customers can get misinformed. And unfortunately, that leaves you with the headache of sorting out the correct information from the misconceived assumptions.
By providing timely and regular updates, customers will know that you’re working diligently to get their project complete and trust that you’re working in their best interest. In our interviews with homeowners, we found that they like to receive an update about once per week, even if there is no progress to report.
Providing Comfort. At the heart of the Bodhi Customer Experience is communication, informing solar customers what’s happening now and what to expect next. But more so, Bodhi is striving to provide a sense of comfort. For customers, comfort in knowing that their project is progressing as planned, comfort in knowing that their investment is performing well, and comfort in knowing that they are making an environmental impact. For the solar company, Bodhi provides you comfort in knowing that your customers are informed and satisfied.
If you're interested in delivering better communication to your customers without the headache, or you just want to know more about our interviews with solar homeowners, contact us.