Installing solar panels is a big investment with a long-term payback that can extend 20 years or more. Choosing the right solar installer is crucial, and for an industry that typically doesn’t have repeat customers, the key to growth is delivering exceptional customer service from day one to generate referrals. For Direct Energy Solar (previously Astrum Solar), the leading full-service residential solar provider in the eastern United States, the secret to exceptional customer service is Salesforce.
When Co-Founder Vadim Polikov launched Direct Energy Solar in 2008, he saw that solar companies were mostly smaller organizations that lacked strong business processes and a consistent customer experience. He recognized the need to combine technology with service and sought to revolutionize how solar products were offered. He also wanted to provide a level of service that wows the customer and creates a memorable experience. “Salesforce was the clear option,” he says.
“I don’t think the company would really exist if we hadn't adopted Salesforce,” says Polikov. “Other companies that started the same time as Direct Energy Solar that didn’t invest in technology and used off-the-shelf software … they’re not around anymore.”
In an industry that grows nearly 50% each year, Direct Energy Solar fuels their growth with the help of Salesforce and the Customer Success Platform. With Service Cloud, customers are connected to service reps at all times to ensure satisfaction. “A happier customer means more referrals,” says Co-Founder Josh Goldberg, “and more referrals means the company grows faster.”
Marketing Cloud also keeps Direct Energy Solar informed, with social listening tools that offer real-time monitoring on their brand and competitors. They can identify strong leads across social media to fill their pipeline. Additionally, Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud enable them to stay on top of trends in the solar space with trending reports and the ability to listen, analyze trends, and engage with customers and consumers in real time.
This makes Direct Energy Solar more profitable. “Our business is built on creating a fantastic customer experience through Service Cloud,” Polikov says. “Service Cloud is essential for being able to keep pace with the variety of channels that customers use to connect with us.”
Utilizing the Customer Success Platform, Direct Energy Solar jumped way ahead of their competitors by offering a higher level of personalized service. “Our business depends on our solar professionals out in the field interacting with the customers,” says Polikov. While other companies rely on customer data being stored at the office and service techs needing to wait until they get back to answer questions, Direct Energy Solar recognizes the need to be mobile is a requirement. Using the Salesforce1 Mobile App, they keep every technician connected.
“We can take everything we do for our customer and have it all in one platform,” says Goldberg. And this information can be accessed from any device, anywhere. An employee can “know what has been talked about with that customer, from what they said to the salesperson at the kitchen table, to what offhand comment they made to the project manager. All of that is tracked and included in the system,” says Anthony Bramante, manager of Engineering and Logistics. This puts everyone on the same page — creating a “single view of the truth,” as CIO Stephen Simons says — and keeps Direct Energy Solar ahead of their competitors.
“Service Cloud enables us to solve an issue before the customer is even aware of it,” says Bramante. For example, if a solar panel is underperforming, “a technician using Service Cloud can immediately identify the location of the issue and come up with a solution.” They can contact a customer right away and send somebody out. Service Cloud lets Direct Energy Solar “connect all the dots” so the customer doesn’t have to. “If you anticipate what the customer’s going to ask before they ask, that’s a moment they’re going to remember,” says Polikov.
Service Cloud allows Direct Energy Solar to compile years — even decades — of information about a customer and their panels. Says Polikov, “By gathering that information and then using it to anticipate customer needs, it creates a customer experience that transcends the existing expectations of the customer.”
Customers can choose how to interact with Direct Energy Solar. “When customers reach out to us, it doesn’t matter what channel they come in at with their request. They’re going to get the same, consistent, high level of service thanks to Salesforce,” says Polikov.
Salesforce also provides incredible scalability. As Goldberg says, “We’ve invested in building a platform that today serves about 4,000 homeowners. But we want to service 400,000 homeowners in the next three or four years.” With Salesforce, Direct Energy Solar has the tools they need scale their business and provide exceptional customer service.