Servicing in the Solar sector

My experience as a professional has seen me work in the DTH(Direct-to-home) TV service industry, with Dish TV, Tata Sky, Videocon, the consumer durables industry, with Symphony, and now the solar industry, with Claro Energy. In those previous industries, service was of a traditional form. These were trade based companies where the expectations from service are defined – consumers know what to expect from the organization in terms of service, the milestones for service are properly stated, organizations are aware of how a lack of service can affect sales. Such companies understand that if they have to sell a product then they must ensure dependable service, otherwise the competition can swiftly overtake.

Let’s come to the solar industry now, the industry we currently work in. I have been part of it for almost a year now and here is what I found out. This industry is still quite heavily influenced by the government, since it essentially still has a B2G structure. Thus, inevitably, the service process is slow. This is how it works:

  1. After solar pumps are installed and run, if there is any issue with the setup the customer makes a complaint on the government helpline
  2. After the respective Govt department receives the complaint, they then proceed to transfer the same to the solar company via a letter/mail
  3. Once the solar company receives the complaint, it then assesses it and sets about to provide a solution. In Claro Energy’s case, this generally takes about 2-3 days.

This entire 3 step process makes the total duration, from complaint to resolution, a 15 days lead time.

At Claro, our philosophy is a little different. We believe that each customer is an integral part of our fabric and so we try and service them directly, at least as much as possible. We changed the previous mentioned process to reduce the customer’s sufferings. We printed stickers which had both the Govt organization’s helpline, along with our own Toll Free helpline number (complaints serviced with immediate effect, within 72 hours). Thus we managed to reduce one time consuming step in the process from complaint to servicing. The customer obviously finds our option much more effective, quicker too.

But why is our timeline 72 hours, you may ask. That is because sometimes these complaints come from areas that may be 200-250 km away from our regional office. Yet we rectify 90% of these issues within 72 hours. We strive to make the customer loyal to Claro Energy, by giving them exceptional service.

In my knowledge, no other solar company is as service oriented as ours. At Claro we are making a concerted effort to excel in service. Our directors have given me full freedom to make things happen so that we achieve our target of unparalleled service.

After the installation team has done their part, the solar pump properties are handed over to us for maintenance. As soon as this happens we go about our process by first calling the customer. In this call, we follow 3 steps.

Step 1:  We tell the customer about our toll free number and assure him about the 72 hour impact timeline.

Step 2:  Unlike most of our competitors, who are some of the bigger players in this market, we have arranged for a good IVR that ensures a good reception for the customer. This makes them feel assured and that we are there for them. They understand that we will listen to them and will take action accordingly.

Step 3:  Before a supervised rectification of the problem, we advise the customer preventive health check-up – cleaning the panels, cleaning the proximity of weeds or other vegetation/objects that may adversely affect the performance of the solar panels, ensuring that children are not playing around the panels.

In spite of our best efforts for efficiency in service, sometimes delays do occur if it is a material related issue – the suppliers may not be able to provide replacements of certain materials on time. But with our pro-active responses, the customers realize that someone is out there who is analysing such issues, and that they need not depend completely on the government to get these issues resolved.

When a company does not involve itself deeply into the servicing of its own products, it can never completely win over its customers. This is where Claro excels. We have become customer service oriented. I have been here for 10 months now. In every state where we have pumps, we have designated personnel who are responsible for their respective designated zones. These localized personnel try to ensure that any issue which happens is resolved to whatever extent possible before it is escalated to the centralized complaint unit – toll free helpline. We want to ensure that the customer does not have to break a sweat to ensure his solar pump is serviced, and in case we get delayed with our service we keep calling and informing the customer about the estimated date and time of resolution. So the customer feels that someone is getting to know them, they don’t stay unknown to the company or the organization.

Praveen Tiwari, Head of Customer Support at Claro Energy

(This blog post was authored by Praveen Tiwari, National Head of Customer Support at Claro Energy)