Posted by Keith Marett on May 30, 2016
According to GTM Research, the cost of customer acquisition for a typical solar residential system is roughly $3,000. With the bulk of this cost coming from sales and marketing, solar system installers need to reduce the cost of acquisition to deliver solar at an attractive price point. One of the most effective but least used tactics: customer referrals.
The simple truth is that people trust their friends and family. That trust extends to their opinions about who to vote for, where to dine, and what to buy. So it makes sense that solar installers should look at existing customers as ambassadors. Referrals also lower the total cost of customer acquisition and, in tight margin businesses, this is a crucial approach.
Just how important are customers referrals? Very, according to research from the Nielsen rating company:
Given the importance of customer references, how do you go about getting them? As many businesses have found out, getting a new customer can be a challenge, but keeping them and fostering a long term ambassador is even more difficult. Why? Often manufacturers and installers are so focused on new sales, product and installation, they forget about customers once the product has been installed. To change this, you need to start engaging customers not only during the sale and install process, but after as well. That’s because, as important as a flawless install and sale is, when it comes to creating an ambassador, it is equally important to keep in touch with your customers to find out what they think of a product, how it may be improved, and to resolve customer complaints quickly. Here are the top 4 ways to improve customer engagement and create a legion of ambassadors
The number one way to increase customer engagement is to actively seek your customers’ feedback. Encourage them to rate products and services. Most purchasers during the product investigation stage will read the reviews or ratings provided by others and then decide whether to buy the product or not. If people provide negative feedback, respond immediately. By offering solutions, you can convert a poor rating into a good opportunity to reinforce brand trust.
Social media connects people with friends, family and the brands they use or want. When customers are happy, they naturally promote products and services through word of mouth and on social media. Give them an option to recommend products and services to their online friends once they have had a chance to assess the benefits of solar. But make sure to pay close attention to any social media efforts. Disappointed customers can damage a brand unless concerns are quickly resolved.
Many solar companies are offering direct dollar incentives to customers to refer a friend. If a referral turns into a sale, the referee can make up to $1,000 per successful installation.
Don’t just install and run. Stay in touch with customers. Keep them in the loop regarding product maintenance and performance. For example, if your company has the means to collect information about their specific product performance, let customers know when they need to wash their panels, and send them instructions on how to clean them. People want to know that a company cares about them and they will appreciate the extra effort that takes.
Building customer engagement is not always as easy as it sounds.
In general, products that don’t give people a chance to interact with them are less likely to generate the kind of loyalty required in order to ask them for referrals. Products like consumer electronics, entertainment and packaged goods generate high customer engagement simply because people ‘use’ them more often, and they offer ample opportunities to post on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Low engagement products, which people purchase annually like insurance or — even less frequently — home heating and cooling systems, are simply not set up to encourage customer engagement and few even consider promotions to friend networks through social media.
That can change though.
Photovoltaic panels by themselves are a relatively “low” engagement product. However, people buying solar panels are keen to understand the benefit of their investment. If owners had a way to monitor how much energy they are generating and consuming, as well as how much they are saving from their solar investment, they are suddenly much more engaged. Providing customers with a real-time view of energy use–right on their mobile phone–can lead to higher engagement rates, more product reviews and increased referrals. Our statistics at Neurio prove this out. People open the Neurio Home Energy Monitor phone app more than four times a day or 30 times a week. That’s huge engagement. And it means increased potential for referrals from your growing pool of connected solar ambassadors.