By Gregg Hicks, VP, Modernize Home Services
Solar installers are facing massive supply chain constraints and labor shortages. These problems were clear in our recent survey “State of the Contractor 2022,” where over 200 home improvement contractors shared that those were their two biggest business concerns, with supply chain mentioned by 63% and labor shortages by 58%. Rising marketing costs rounded out the top three, being cited by 32% of respondents.
While addressing marketing costs is important, protecting existing customers will produce a better ROI. Remember, customers happy with your service are more likely to refer your business. But not enough solar contractors take a customer-first approach.
During the solar installation boom years ago, a company’s success was based on salesmanship and quality installations. Key staff members provided quotes, handled installations and responded to inbound inquiries. Competition was less fierce than today, so there wasn’t a lot invested in customer care programs to always answer the phone or email, especially during off-hours.
This is not a winning strategy in 2022, especially while homeowners face unprecedented challenges around supply availability and project scheduling. More and more customers, especially those looking for in-home battery systems, are being quoted start dates in 2023. These extended wait times mean you need to adjust and start looking at things from the homeowner’s perspective. Here are four specific ways a solar installer can rise to the challenge:
1. Be proactive
Do not wait for your customers to complain. Open your communications to get in front of any questions they may have. Your outreach plan can include scripts for check-in calls, nurturing emails, or an incentives program for undecided homeowners. Consider creating and sharing content that homeowners can use to “get ready” for their solar project. Customers in the queue could get monthly email newsletter updates on general supply and scheduling status.
2. Shift to texting
Preferences for how homeowners want to hear from contractors have evolved. Generations that primarily communicate through text messages are becoming homeowners and even people in their sixties and seventies are familiar with texting. New easy-to-use tools, like Connect, provide automatic pre-made outbound messages that allow contractors to follow up on new leads instantly without having to do it themselves.
3. Hire a dedicated follow-up team
Make sure you have a team in charge of nurturing existing customers and following up with new leads. This team needs to make sure leads do not fall through the cracks. Also, salespeople should stay in touch with customers after they get a contract signed. Once you have this role assigned, give the individual measurable targets for items like retention, re-purchase and referral.
4. Regularly communicate
Maintain a consistent cadence of interactions and document these interactions to stay on track. Contractors can ensure regular communication with customers using the tools already in your customer relationship management (CRM), marketing automation or email programs. Customers who consistently hear from you will feel secure knowing a path exists to communicate any concerns they might have. In addition to triggering outbound communications, your CRM can track when communications are opened, replied to or “unsubscribed.” These are the feedback loops that give you and your customer success team hints on how to iterate and improve your processes.
Today’s customer, who is grappling with longer-than-normal delivery timelines, needs nurturing more than ever. Use these four steps to delight and retain your customers. You will build trust, strengthen your brand and keep your business strong through ongoing supply chain constraints, labor shortages and rising marketing costs.
Gregg Hicks is a longtime marketer of home improvement services. He is a new business leader for Modernize Home Services and has 20 years of experience across web analytics, SEO, social, SEM and affiliate marketing. His role as a spokesperson is to explain the value of thoughtful matchmaking between homeowners and home improvement professionals that forges positive and productive connections between the parties.