How to Turn Around 3 Classic Communication Problems In Solar Operations

By |2019-03-19T04:49:43-07:00March 8th, 2017|

Regardless of whether you are a commercial or residential solar operations manager, you know how important getting the work done right and on time is to maintaining customer satisfaction. Your days are already packed with managing installations and reporting to clients, and there’s no room to deal with additional stumbling blocks like inefficient internal communication, unreliable customer information or inaccessible project data.

At Scoop Solar, we’ve spoken with hundreds of solar operations professionals to figure out the most common communication concerns that they (and perhaps you) are facing. Here are 3 of those key issues and how you can minimize these soft costs’ impacts on your solar business:

1. Data coming from site visits can be inconsistent and incomplete

Crews leave the site forgetting key data? Extra truck-rolls. Missed installation steps? Get ready to pay for costly troubleshooting. Without a reliable and easy to access mobile workflow platform to help you conduct operations consistently, team members will depend on outdated paper lists—or worse, go by memory during site visits.

How This is Costing You

  • handles 20 opportunities a month
  • spends 4 hours/opportunity going back and forth with the design team
  • neglects to input accurate pre-sales information 20% of the time

With sample data points for other variables in this customizable sales efficiency calculator, this company could be closing another $1.2 million of business a year and freeing up the equivalent of 3 sales reps if they just cleared administration and communication obstacles throughout their teams!

How You Could Turn This Around

Start by choosing a flexible and customization solar software that suits your growing company’s workflow management needs. Yes, time and money can be constraints to researching for the right platform but as you can see from the calculator above, you are losing money and opportunities every day. On top of that, changing things up always gets harder as your team, projects and contracts grow bigger.

There’s a number of solutions available to prevent or correct data collection errors. For example, Aurora offers a technologically-advanced PV design software for creating accurate proposals remotely, while Scoop Solar’s mobile business platform equips field crews with advanced mobile forms apps (see image) that lower the chances of human error when gathering data from sites or following sensitive procedures.

2. Communication delays snowball into major timeline setbacks

When there are many projects being juggled at the same time, people can take a long time or even completely forget to send important information to you. Not only does this drastically slow down timelines for client projects such as a PV installation or commissioning project, but it also creates additional administrative work on your end with the need for repeated follow-ups with the forgetful employee, contractor or partner.

How This is Costing You

Paper creates chaos and traditional office-bound project and workflow solutions do not make your operations more efficient; on the contrary, they often further slow your team down as hours are wasted with employees re-entering a backlog of stale field data into these systems—data that may not even be relevant any longer! Give this solar installation efficiency calculator a spin to see what your potential gains are when you automate your operations.

How You Could Turn This Around

Do away with paper/document-based workflows or legacy software solutions! Instead look into a new breed of software dubbed “mobile enterprise apps”, which enables you to connect the entire team, collect and review data in real-time on a platform that both office and field employees can access. No more double data entry, no more stale data and no more 3-hour meetings to get everyone on the same page.

As a leading pioneer of Mobile Enterprise Apps in leveraging advanced mobile and cloud technology, Scoop Solar enables automatic data syncing from the office to the field and back. This means that the next step in the project can start as soon as the data is collected (and not when it is reported), minimizing delays and speeding up project timelines.

Recently, Enact Systems (provider of a platform for accelerating & tracking solar sales) ran a webinar with Greentech Media on this very topic: how solar companies can work smarter not harder. The fact is, for leading solar companies who are never satisfied with the status quo and want to stay ahead of the pack, there are now tremendous opportunities with solar software such as Scoop Solar and Enact Systems to improve operational efficiency, quality and customer satisfaction.

3. Long project status meetings sap the life out of your operations

Your day is crazy with managing O&M or installation activities, but you find yourself constantly calling and emailing others, or worse yet, setting up lengthy all-hands meetings to get the status of different projects and outstanding issues. As IT Cortex has found, weak communication is the root cause of project failures 57% of the time. Constantly reaching out to your employees is a waste of time and annoys everyone, so you need a way to be able to tell what’s happening – without the fuss and the frustration.

How This is Costing You

Unlike the first two points mentioned above, this issue has a direct impact on how satisfied employees are with working at your company. Transparency has been on the rise and the open communication of project status isn’t just essential to you—it’s essential to the wellbeing of the team.

As a manager of solar operations, you want software that centralizes all your project activities in one place. However, this is only possible if this same software has been designed purposefully for your mobile workforce from the ground up. If your software is only optimized for desktop or is limited to the office, then it simply isn’t suitable for PV installation and O& M processes, which are field-based and distributed by nature. We have all seen many examples of “fancy” software with lots of “bells and whistles” that turn into very expensive virtual paperweights after a few months. Why? Because they were never adopted by people in the field, which account for a significant portion of a solar company’s workforce.

How You Could Turn This Around

An operations management platform that ensures your data is just as accessible in the field as in the office. With regards to operations, Scoop Solar consolidates all project activities into one mobile- and desktop-friendly application so you can see what’s happening, who’s got the ball and where each project’s at—complete with pictures and videos from the site! The clear status of every project down to a single activity is easily accessible and guaranteed to be up to the minute.

On the CRM front, SolarNexus offers a comprehensive solar sales software that focuses on tracking a lead’s progress throughout a project, from proposal to completion. This way, you will always know what has been done and what needs to be done next with the lead.

Many solar operations leaders that we’ve spoken with agree that creating a standardized process for data and operations management can often fall behind in priority, especially once the work starts piling in. However, waiting to tackle the issue will only make implementing a solution more difficult. Crews used to the current process will be reluctant to change over, and there will be a larger number of projects to update to the new system.

By getting started early, you have the opportunity to build the proper foundation and culture within the team. The good news is that with Mobile Enterprise Apps software, such as Scoop Solar, you can get started with packages that are as small or as large as is suitable for your company. With Software as a Service (SaaS), there is no need for a huge capital expenditure upfront and you get the benefit of continuous updates and new features.

Scoop® Solar is a unique solution that incorporates mobile and cloud technology to create an intuitive field-to-office experience for your increasingly decentralized, liquid workforce. By connecting your data and existing software with easy-to-build, easy-to-use WorkApps™, your team can access, input and sync data from a mobile phone or desktop, wherever they are