Word-of-mouth referrals are one of the most cost-effective ways to get new leads, but actually getting your existing customers to write a review or fill out a referral form can be challenging. Is there something you could be doing to get more people to promote your solar business? Are there clues to look for to help you predict which customers are more likely to be promoters? Obviously, every person is different, so there's no magic formula to help you determine this, but research increasingly shows that there are a few key differences between promoters and non-promoters.
Solar Customer Satisfaction
First, you should calculate your Net Promoter Score, or NPS. This is a key measure of customer satisfaction and loyalty, which indicates how likely someone is to promote your business, or solar in general, to their networks. This can be determined by asking one or two specific questions on a survey after you’ve completed a project – for example, “How likely are you to recommend solar to a friend or neighbor?” or “How likely are you to recommend our business to a friend or neighbor?” A high net promoter score correlates with high growth potential for your business. It might require some time and effort to implement customer surveys if you don't already use them, but it's worth it for the insight into your customers that you'll receive in return.
Overall, industry-wide, solar customers are extremely satisfied with their experiences, much more so than in other industries. Most solar customers make referrals, with 80% of respondents in a recent NREL study referring their installer to an average of three other people.
What Makes a Solar Promoter?
The differences between promoters and non-promoters are minor, with both groups sharing very similar demographics. However, the study found that promoters tended to be more motivated by non-economic reasons, and were much more likely to care about the environmental benefits of solar.
As can be expected, promoters had an overall better solar experience—though it’s important to note that doesn’t mean that non-promoters necessarily had a bad experience. Across the board, promoters ranked higher than non-promoters on measures of satisfaction including ease and promptness of the installation process, the level of maintenance required for the system, the way the panels ultimately looked on their property, and problems with the site. Non-promoters were also generally satisfied when it came to these measures, just less so than the promoters.
The biggest difference between the two groups was performance relative to expectation. Promoters tended to be those whose actual bill savings met or exceed estimated savings, while non-promoters tended to be those whose systems did not perform as well as anticipated. Savings, essentially, drives satisfaction.
Interestingly, promoters had more difficulties going solar than non-promoters, despite being more satisfied post-installation. Promoters had the biggest issues when it came to convincing everyone in the household to go solar, and having a home suitable for solar. This can be explained by a few factors—it might be that promoters were more able to understand that challenges in the process are often beyond the installer’s control, and were more willing to overlook any problems that did arise. It could also be attributed to the installer setting clear, reasonable expectations ahead of time, causing less frustration overall.
This would make sense, as the study also found that overpromising on the part of the dealer drove dissatisfaction. 8.5% of solar adopters regretted going solar, despite 35% of them being solar promoters—this was attributed to a few different reasons, including not meeting expectations in terms of production and savings, choosing to lease instead of buying, and not doing their homework and shopping around for a different (and better) installer. Non-promoters were 30% more likely to have been approached by an installer, while promoters were 15% more likely to have shopped around.
Setting Yourself Up for Success
So what does this mean for your business? When it comes to existing customers, leverage your client database to get started. Check in with current or past customers to see if they’ll write you a review or give a testimonial about their experience. You can also find out if there’s anything about the process they wish had gone better, and use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Consider establishing a referral program to incentivize old customers to spread the word to their friends, and to help new leads feel confident through word-of-mouth reassurances as to the quality of your service.
Going forward, there are few key things you can do to create a positive customer experience for your new leads. Set appropriate expectations, and mitigate uncertainty as much as possible. You don’t have to make extravagant promises—just make ones you can actually keep. You want your customer to have the best possible solar experience, and it's up to you to be a trusted resource who can explain each step of the process, manage expectations, and reassure your customer when problems arise (and handle them as quickly as possible). Maintaining honesty and transparency will go a long way towards ensuring customer satisfaction, and will ultimately yield great word-of-mouth referrals that will help you grow your business.