Customer Service From Solar Stars

Brent Engel
Contributing Writer
Direct Energy Solar

I’ve heard for years that good customer experience can make or break a business.  I’ve learned that it’s true. In my case, I am willing to pay more for good service.  I think most would say the same.  I use that idea to help grow our business.

I teach a lot of business owners and managers and I always share the lessons I’ve learned in life.  One of the lessons life has taught me is that life is more about relationships.  It is less about what you know, what you have or what you can do; those are the entry fees for the relationship.

As an example of what I mean, I think about my favorite restaurant.  I have been going there for about as long as I have lived in my current city.  The food is good, but I could get the same elsewhere.  The prices are competitive.  The reason I consistently go there is every time I go in the owner waves, smiles and says, “So good to see you.”  The servers remember our drink orders.  They have even sent cookies with me for my youngest daughter when she couldn’t go with me.  They taught me that service is about making people feel important in small ways.

In another example, I have been going to my local garage to have my family’s cars repaired for about as long as I have been going to my favorite restaurant.  I initially went there because they were local and had been around for as long as I have been alive.  They are not fast.  It usually takes two or three days for them to get to my car.

They have so many good qualities that keep me and many others coming back (they used to sell gas, but they have so many cars parked on their property, you can’t get to the pumps anymore).  They are honest and have never tried to sell me a repair I didn’t need.  If my car doesn’t need a repair, they don’t charge for a diagnostic.  They stand behind their work.  When I go to pick up my car, the owners talk to me about something going on in the community or the local college basketball team’s record.  I know the owner and his son.  They taught me that service is also about being professional, making people feel safe about your service through communication.

Then I think about the opposite; I think about my cable company.  I have been with my cable company for about a year and am probably going to switch.  Every year the introductory rate runs out and my bill goes up by 25{938cd9e8dae860e800efc538277d4f7684e6f6981618ba70d1c34357a53c2e1f} or more.  Every year I have to fight and threaten to leave to get my rate back to something I still see as a waste of money.  I just don’t see any value in the service they provide and if it weren’t for the rest of my family, I wouldn’t use their service at all.  They taught me that service is not about fighting with customers to take care of their needs and concerns.

My company enters a 20 year relationship with our customers so customer service is an important part of what we do.  We teach these “lessons” to our sales team and to our service teams.  We teach them to make the client feel important by noticing little things such as signs of hobbies or interest; by respecting the home in the way they knock on the door or enter the home, by smiling and thanking the customer for his or her time.  We teach our teams to help customers feel safe with guarantees, explanations of the service process to answer questions and to follow up.  We teach our teams to be up front and to take care of issues and avoid unpleasant surprises.

The following letter from one of our customers represents the result.

“Last year, after reviewing several proposals to have solar installed on our residence, we selected Direct Energy Solar to provide and install our system… Your sales person called me to set up a consultation. He was very informative and professional in his overview and presentation of what size system we would need for my residence, and the various lease or purchase options.

“Once I agreed to move forward with the project, and lease rather than purchase my system, I was contacted by another consummate professional, who worked with me through the financing approval process right up to the scheduling of the work.  I was kept informed of permitting, scheduling…etc. Communication from these guys was exceptional. I deal with many business owners and executives that would be ecstatic to have employees that communicated as well them. I thought I was in “Solar Heaven” with the cooperation I was getting from Direct Energy Solar and the employees that were working my project.

“I really didn’t think it could get any better that this, but believe it or not it did!

“It started when I received a call from your Install lead Foreman telling me that due to rain…he would keep me advised of the install schedule.  And boy did he ever “over perform”! He either texted or called me to let me know when he would be arriving and called me 30 minutes prior to arrival so I could leave my office and meet him at my house. Now that was WOW service! Really that was only the beginning of WOW SERVICE. Next, the lead electrician arrived, he introduced me to his helper and then showed me what they were going to do and what parts of the house they needed access to. They were the ultimate professionals in every way, even wearing “booties” to protect my hard wood floors when needing to walk up to my attic. These guys were truly the “best of the best”!

“Now, back to the install foreman, I would consider him your shining “Solar Star”! His work ethic, professionalism and lead by example attitude for his helpers, was unparalleled considering all my years in corporate management and working with home energy retrofit contractors. Any one of our 100+ dealers would be ecstatic to have a crew has the drive and focus as them!

“Their work ethic and professionalism was so evident that even my neighbors (who are also interested in solar now that I have it) came over to tell me they never saw 3-5 guys work so fluidly before. To me that’s the ultimate compliment. I’m going to work with my sales person to see if we can make a presentation to our local neighborhood association so we can get Direct Energy in as many homes as possible on my street. If we do, my only request would be to send back that team, because they are your “Solar Stars” and should be recognized for a job WELL DONE!”

Experience has taught me that providing good customer service just takes a lot of little things.  Good customer service can be taught.  Without good customer service, you are negotiating on price and that is not a formula for business success.


Brent Engel is Head of Training for Direct Energy Solar, a solar installation company.  Brent joined Direct Energy Solar in 2014 and built the training platform for that line of business.  He has been in training and development for over 18 years in service and construction industries.  He has created several training programs for management training and development, sales, customer service and technical skill training.  He has founded a corporate university to teach new franchisees.  He has created and delivered training for multi-unit supervisor development as well.  Brent lives in Louisville, KY with his wife and three daughters.  He enjoys biking with his youngest daughter, marathon running with his oldest and chatting with his middle.  He works in Columbia, MD and has a long commute to work where he enjoys reading.

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