Solar installers in the UK must adapt to the increasing and changing demands of consumers if they are to thrive under new market conditions.
That was the conclusion of yesterday's installer panel at the opening leg of this year's Solar Power Portal Roadshows, held at Salford's AJ Bell Stadium.
Egnida chief executive Andrew Padmore, Photon Energy's Jonathan Bates and Carbon Zero Energy MD Gareth Jones discussed what lies in store for installers as the market continues to recalibrate in the wake of December's feed-in tariff reset, with all three concluding that consumer expectations had risen in recent years.
Jones said that he’d seen a “marked change in attitude” from consumers in recent years as solar PV has become more familiar.
Padmore agreed with his sentiments, stating that people who had already installed solar were to be considered early adopters and “knew what they were doing”.
“With the market now, we have to assume that they know nothing, and that counts for both domestic and commercial.
“We like to work with customers in a way that we call ‘no surprises’. We’ll tell them upfront what their customer journey will look like, so we’ll start here, this’ll happen, that’ll happen, and then we’ll come to here.
“They know what’s going to happen and they can follow it through the process,” he said.
One particular area that all three members of the panel agreed on was that customer service would now be paramount, noting that this could be one area in which installers could differentiate themselves from other energy providers and the Big Six in particular.
“The Big Six are dreadful at customer service as they’ve come from a monopoly background. It’s all about trust and delivering on that promise,” Padmore said.
Bates added: “[Customer service] has to become a lot more important in the low-subsidy environment we’ve got at the moment.”
However one area that the panel said would pose a threat in the coming months is the premise of storage solutions being missold to consumers.
Many installers are thought to consider storage as a viable route of diversification as the PV market contracts, but as a relatively nascent technology it remains comparatively misunderstood.
Thomas said that he had already witnessed cold callers attempting to sell the technology with minimal training or product knowledge, and warned that installers could end up inadvertently misselling storage systems by repeating a manufacturer's claims without providing the context.
The SPP Roadshows continue throughout the week with today’s leg in Newcastle and tomorrow’s in Edinburgh, before resuming in the first week of April to visit Nottingham, Brighton and Cardiff. Tickets are still available free of charge, and more details can be found here.