How Is Project Management Software Being Used by Solar Companies and Solar Panel Contractors?
If you’re a solar contractor who works in the field, you need the freedom to focus on getting the job done accurately and creating quick estimates for customers. You don’t need to worry about handling paperwork or keeping track of everything the customer needs in a pile of notes. You can benefit from software that provides project management for solar contractors to manage the administrative side of things while you focus on your expertise, solar panel installations.
Why Do I Need a CRM in the First Place?
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a critical component of any contractor business. This software solution has changed the contractor industry, especially in niche sectors, such as renewable energy. More people can use CRM software with the introduction of mobile options, including field contractors. When using this software, you can become more competitive against others who don’t use such effective tools.
CRM takes the tools of business management and combines them into one software system in the cloud. Cloud-based software does not require you to load multiple programs. Plus, computer-based programs rely on a user to return to a computer to use them. Cloud-based CRM software allows users to access the program from anywhere through the web or a mobile app.
Contractors in the field need products that can travel with them. Mobile CRM capabilities can improve productivity for users by 50%. Having cloud CRM on a mobile device clearly gives contractors an edge. Those who don’t use it may fall behind the competition because they don’t have the ability to make fast quotes or to handle customer information without returning to an office to use a computer. CRM users can access quote or customer information from anywhere on the web or through mobile apps.
The renewable energy sector relies on using technology to deliver greener products to its customers. CRM software can do that. Users can take photos to quickly create estimates for solar panel jobs without needing to return to an office. Customers can get quotes faster and make a decision on the spot. Faster sales can increase the productivity of a field contractor overall.
Another reason to use contractor-specific CRM is the software’s ability to conform to your specific needs. For instance, a solar panel contractor CRM allows users to customize the program to make ordering parts, creating contracts, tracking customers and conducting similar tasks simpler.
CRM makes it easy to integrate software a contractor already uses into the program. Instead of using multiple programs to track customers, make reports, schedule appointments and order components, CRM combines all these features into one software. With one central system, using the software on the job site is easier and faster, ensuring better customer service.
Metrics That Solar Industry Businesses Should Monitor
Solar industry businesses have several sector-specific metrics they should monitor. Field metrics are values you should be able to access while in the field, whether providing service or making a sale.
A quality CRM program should present a field operator all the information they need about a customer at their fingertips without needing to keep handwritten notes or remember a customer’s needs. By knowing what a customer requires before arriving, the field contractor can more quickly find a solution to fit the customer, improving customer service and helping to retain existing customers.
The following are metric examples a solar contractor may want to monitor:
1. Customer Acquisition Cost
How much money do you have to spend to entice new customers to your company? The customer acquisition cost (CAC) is the amount invested in marketing and sales divided by the total number of customers you have. The lower this value, the easier a time you have getting people to buy solar panels from you.
2. Retention and Attrition
Retention and attrition relate to how many customers you keep and lose, respectively. Having repeat customers is essential to businesses because CAC values can be much higher than the costs of keeping customers. Therefore, you want to maximize retention by providing optimal customer service in the field and helping existing customers however possible.
3. Referral Rates
Similar to retention, referrals come from existing customers. A referral is when a current customer enjoys your service enough to advertise for you to their friends, family and colleagues. By improving customer service, referral rates can rise.
The raw data of money coming in from sales and other fees is revenue. For some renewable energy companies, interest fees on company-financed solar panels, late fees for payments and money spent on services also fall into revenue totals.
5. Product Metabolism
Product metabolism refers to how much time, money and labor the company invests into promoting and selling new products. For example, new solar panels or a new design feature typically will have high product metabolisms because the company will want to promote the new product heavily through sales and marketing. As products age over time, the investment the company spends on them decreases.
Ways to measure product metabolism include money spent on the product and how quickly installations of that product occur. Work orders and decisions made about that product play parts in calculating product metabolism.
Potential Problems With Monitoring These Metrics
Those who do not have access to CRM software in the field cannot check these metrics when they need them. Even those who do have mobile access may succumb to a common mistake in using CRM software and not properly keep the data updated. This lack of data integration means the metrics provided are not accurate. Plus, some systems do not allow customization to a renewable energy contractor’s specific needs.
There is a better solution than trying to fit an unideal CRM software to your business needs or relying too much on paper or memory. You can find a balance in a CRM software that has the features your company needs.
Solar Project Management Software Features to Meet Your Contracting Needs
Understanding that general CRM and paper products do not meet a solar contractor’s field metric monitoring needs is the first step. The next step is to ask yourself about the specific features your company needs for solar project management software and how it can benefit your contracting efforts. Consider the following questions to help determine your company’s needs:
What Current Problems Does Our Organization Need Solutions For?
CRM software needs to address your current problems. Do you need a solution to make creating in-field invoices simple? Do contractors need an option to see digital versions of work orders from anywhere? Do you need to quickly see invoice statuses from anywhere?
Dataforma offers solutions for these invoicing issues by providing integrated contractor billing options in the program. Contractors can generate invoices or access work orders in the field. Plus, they can put holds on customer credit until payment of outstanding invoices.
Another solution many solar companies need is the ability to instantly take photos from the field and upload them to the software for repair teams to evaluate. Contractors can also create instant bids while at job sites and track the status of their previous bids. Offering more on-site services ensures contractors can give customers the outstanding service they require.
What Features Do We Enjoy in Our Current Processes?
If your company has an existing system for monitoring customer information and tracking new jobs, what features do you like about it? Do you like the ability to create schedules based on work orders using your existing system? This is a necessary feature for ensuring solar panel contractors go into the field to meet all necessary appointment requests and service calls while also missing customers or arriving late at visits.
Some people may use a color-coded paper calendar for this process. However, paper calendars only have limited copies that no one else can access. Such calendars can also acquire damage while on the go.
A cloud-based scheduling system can use color-coding for at-a-glance evaluation of appointments scheduled and those completed. This feature exists in Dataforma’s solar panel service management software under the scheduling option. The software also makes scheduling based on location to reduce contractor driving time if possible.
What Do We Not Enjoy About Our Current Processes?
Are there features your current processes have that you don’t enjoy using? For instance, is your software not user-friendly or only computer-based? What about non-digital methods? Do you rely on memory to know which customers have warranties? These disadvantages could cost you business by reducing the quality of customer service you can offer. When looking for a new CRM solution, find an option that will overcome these hurdles.
Instead of using a paper filing cabinet, access scans of warranty information from both manufacturers and solar panel service providers in the field with Dataforma. Contractors can immediately tell a customer whether they have warranty coverage for a repair without making a phone call to the office or returning to consult the paper copy. If your company provides service warranties, you can create a template for making your own warranty to deliver to the customer at the time of the installation or repairs.
What Features Do Various Parts of Our Organization Need?
Your organization will have different software needs for its departments. For example, the accounting department will need financial solutions, and field techs need invoicing and bid creation access. IT may require data security. Sales team managers and members may need lead tracking. A robust package that offers everything your team needs can serve your company best.
Dataforma’s solutions include multiple features to meet the needs of everyone in a company, such as the ability to create customized mass mailings, tailor the dashboard for access to the most-needed features, document management and lead tracking. With all features for solar companies, the data undergoes backups every hour and regular monitoring. By keeping data secure from hackers and loss, Dataforma eases the minds of customers, contractors and IT workers who may have concerns over data security.
The sales team can easily keep track of their leads for solar panel sales and installations. The software can create reports based on how team members manage leads. Plus, it can show customer data on project statuses and add new leads to the database of old ones, helping solar panel sales team members make the most of their efforts.
What Features Would Be Nice to Have in a New CRM?
While required features help your company get the basics done, consider the nonessential features you would like to have. Do you need a way to track sales or service contractors in the field? Do you need to find out where your fellow workers are for meeting at a service location? GPS tracking is a feature that not all companies need, but it can offer extra information for both management and workers and is an option found on Dataforma software.
Do the Nonessential Features Solve or Outweigh Our Existing Problems?
While you may have learned to work with the process you currently use, how much better could productivity and sales be by upgrading to a solar project management solution for your business? Eliminating the effort of making calculations by hand to create handwritten invoices in the field can improve the accuracy and speed of sales, improving customer service.
Another benefit that is nice to have with a new software solution is worker training for the system. Dataforma offers training online for advanced users and online videos in addition to more traditional forms of software training. This education ensures every contractor using the software knows how to make the most of its features.
Learn More About Solar Project Management Products to Improve Field Operation
Dataforma provides project management tools designed specifically for contractors. Our easy-to-learn solutions for managing client information in the field ensure optimal organization. This software gives contractors like you the ability to focus more on creating estimates and installing solar panels on-site.
To find out more about how Dataforma can improve field operations for solar contractors, contact us to schedule a 15-minute demo.
If you have questions about the software, find out more with our FAQs.