Going solar is a big investment, and most customers we survey are excited about their installation and satisfied with their experience. Happy customers are good for business—a great source of referrals for your team. Unfortunately, not every customer walks away happy, and when a customer has a complaint they often call Energy Trust or their utility. Energy Trust takes these complaints seriously, and repeated customer complaints may result in disciplinary action or even termination for a trade ally.
Energy Trust has found that many complaints originate during the sales and marketing process. While the sales process should be an opportunity to make a good impression by educating customers and demonstrating the integrity of your business, it can turn negative if handled poorly. We’ve compiled the list of sales and marketing guidance below based on complaints we’ve heard directly from solar customers.
- Don’t partner with an unvetted marketing, sales or lead generation company. As a trade ally, you’re responsible for the marketing messages or sales pitch of your partners or sales sub-contractors. Be clear with partners about expectations and share guidance like this list.
- Don’t let your sales team state or even imply that they represent a utility, government agency, or Energy Trust. Your team should clearly identify that they represent your business.
- Don’t tell your customer that they will not have a utility bill. Even if a system is sized to offset 100% of annual usage the customer will still have an electric bill even if in some months it is only for the meter charge.
- Don’t advertise “free solar” or imply that a utility, government agency, or Energy Trust is going to pay for the full installation. (However, it’s okay to estimate the benefit of incentives. For example, “Incentives can cover 30-50% of your system cost.”)
- Don’t imply that a loan product will be paid on a customer’s utility bill. Bill savings will help offset the cost of a solar system, but you should be clear about how and when payments will be made.
- Don’t say “no out-of-pocket costs” if you mean “no upfront costs.” A zero-down loan product does not make a solar installation free.
- Don’t say that Energy Trust is out of money or no longer provides incentives. If your business is ineligible to provide a specific incentive, or has reached an active project limit, be truthful with your customer. It’s OK to offer them your own discount (or not), but avoid calling it an ‘Energy Trust incentive’.
- Do design a system based on your customer’s energy usage. Customers do not receive financial benefit for systems that produce more than their annual electricity usage.
- Do explain how incentives will be paid. Energy Trust pays all residential solar incentives to the trade ally, so be clear with your customers that they will receive an upfront discount, rather than a check.
- Do educate your customers on the benefits and limitations of stand-alone solar versus a solar + storage system. Customers may assume that a solar system without storage can provide back-up power during an outage and feel sorely disappointed when their system shuts down.
- Do clarify next steps and timelines. Some of the most frustrated customers contact Energy Trust when they’re faced with a termination fee due to overlooking or misunderstanding contract cancelation deadlines.
- Do explain to customers that incentives change over time. Use Energy Trust’s Solar Incentive Status Report and let your customers know about upcoming incentive changes, so they’re not surprised.
If you have questions about our Solar incentives and processes, or need clarification on how to represent Energy Trust to customers, please contact the Solar team.