Guest Blog: 3 Steps to Long-Term Community Solar Program Success

Guest Blog: 3 Steps to Long-Term Community Solar Program Success

One of the biggest contributors to a community solar program’s long-term success is the quality of the customer’s experience. Unfortunately, delivering a stellar customer experience can be challenging!
Recently, Clean Energy Collective (CEC) co-presented an American Public Power Association (APPA) webinar to share the important role of the customer’s experience in a community solar program’s long-term success. Oftentimes, asset managers or utilities are engaging with customers who may be unfamiliar with community solar and as such, these new customers may be confused by the industry’s unfamiliar jargon, contracts, billing and crediting processes and more – all of which can negatively impact customer experience.


As a community solar industry leader who has developed programs across 15 states, CEC has experience working with a variety of utilities and programs, servicing thousands of commercial and residential customers. Through this experience, we’ve identified three focus areas essential to delivering customer satisfaction, and in turn ensuring a program’s long-term success.


So, how is stellar customer experience achieved?


Streamline the buying experience: Making it easy for the customer to execute an educated buying decision is a priority. One way CEC delivers this is by offering eCommerce, which is part of our Community Solar Platform, allowing the customer to explore program details, customize proposals and even purchase – all at their convenience. In addition, we’ve learned that providing clear information is key to a positive experience. Potential customers seek to quickly assess a program’s value to their needs and want to easily understand how the community solar program works. A few common questions include:


  • What are my product options?
  • How do I sign up?
  • What happens after sign up?
  • How will payments work?
  • What are bill credits and how do they work?


By improving the customers’ buying experience, solar facilities can be filled from the beginning with happy customers who clearly understand what they signed up for, what the benefits and costs are and what happens next.


Provide clear and timely communication: By mapping the customer’s journey and analyzing customer feedback, we’ve learned to anticipate where in the customer’s experience targeted communication must happen. For example, informing new customers about their facility’s development progress helps maintain their excitement through the sometimes-lengthy interconnection waiting period. Or, leading up to interconnection, providing targeted education about the billing process and what to expect with bill crediting can alleviate customer concerns. By providing clear and relevant information, customers avoid what could become a confusing and frustrating experience that could possibly lead to early contract termination.


Deliver program monitoring and engagement options: Allowing customers to engage with their community solar program is key to delivering long-term satisfaction. For example, by enabling customers to see their facility’s real-time energy production, and linking those results to corresponding sustainability impacts, customers become active participants in their community solar program. CEC facilitates engagement by providing customers access to, our proprietary portal which allows customers to engage and monitor their energy production, allowing them to enjoy and understand their community solar program over the long term.


Achieving unparalleled customer experience: When these three best practices are delivered:


  • Streamlined buying experience
  • Clear and timely communication
  • Program monitoring and engagement


A community solar program will enjoy a higher rate of happy customers and consequently see lower attrition rates, increased customer advocacy and referrals and a faster sales conversion.


To read more insights about achieving long-term community solar program success, read our recent case study here.


About the Author

Shannon Scheiwiller, CEC SVP of Marketing

Shannon Scheiwiller joined CEC mid-2017 as the Senior Vice President of Marketing and leads CEC’s marketing, inside sales, sales operations, customer care and product management departments. Her focus across these market-facing, customer-supporting teams brings technology-enabled capabilities to customer acquisition, customer subscription management and ongoing customer engagement. Prior to joining CEC, Shannon led similar strategic work for Ecova Inc, an ENGIE company, where she led the design and implementation of an award winning, growth driving customer acquisition model – engaging both utility and Fortune 1000 commercial organizations.