Building trust in renewables: communication

How to communicate effectively with consumers and build trust in renewables – and your own business.

Building trust in renewables: communication

With conversation around energy at an all-time high in the media and among the public, it sometimes feels like there’s more confusion and mistrust than ever. To those of us in the industry, the benefits of the switch to renewables seem clear. But from the consumer’s perspective, it’s often not that simple.

As government schemes and initiatives change, prices fluctuate, and companies offer different options and promises, it’s no wonder that the average consumer doesn’t know where to start when it comes to making the green switch and finds the process far more complicated than it needs to be.

As the professionals working directly with customers in their homes, installers are expected to be able to educate and inform. But in the face of so many unknowns and so much contradictory information, how can installers offer reassurance, build trust and good relationships with customers?

We’ve put together some tips:

Financial transparency that balances information and sales

One of the primary concerns for consumers contemplating the switch to renewable energy is the financial aspect – both in the immediate term and over time. From the first quote, they’ll be asking questions like: How much will it cost up front? How much will I spend or save in an average month? How can I keep track of it? And how will all of that evolve in years to come?

Discussions around cost can be the easiest way to lose potential customers, as a lack of clear facts and guarantees lead to an increased worry that they could be being scammed in some way, and that the installer’s intention is simply to make money from them rather than to provide the best, personalised service.

  • Share calculators that are available online, with verifiable data
  • Suggest easy-to-use B2C services and tools that allow consumers to track their cost savings over time
  • Share links to Government schemes and other incentives

This could mean pre-emptively acknowledging your awareness of the issues relating to understanding the financial implications, costs and potential savings when it comes to transitioning to renewables. Transparency is key here, and it could be as simple as preparing a standard email or information sheet that you share with potential customers when giving them a quote, including links to help them feel more like the financial data you share is, in some way, verifiable.

While it might seem like the focus of many of these conversations is on the pricing and costs of the work and systems, it’s also important to reiterate potential savings and benefits. Ensure that customers have ample information on the impact the work could have on their house prices, which can be gathered from Estate Agents in your local area and remind them that they could even make money selling energy back to the grid under the Smart Export Guarantee.

Here are some examples of the tools you could link to that help illustrate personalised costs and savings for various renewable solutions:

Customers are more likely to feel confident in the financial decisions when it comes to the running and management of their new renewable systems if they can keep track of cost and savings in real time, likely using an app on their phones. With a growing number of these tools and services available, it’s a good time to get acquainted and be able to include installation of these along with the system.

It’s vital to be a consultant and make professional suggestions, and to have a preferred product that you’re confident in both using and recommending. However, giving consumers access to information that helps them feel independently informed in the decisions they’re making can also be a great way to build security and trust.

Certifications, accreditations and programmes to build trust

A common issue that consumers report is that they simply don’t know which installers to trust. They seek reassurance beyond words, and it’s reasonable of them to expect tangible evidence of expertise and reliability. In these cases, the first thing that many consumers will look for is a certification or qualification that goes some way towards proving your expertise and adherence to industry standards. MCS reports that 70% of consumers are more likely to trust a company that displays the MCS certification.

When you choose which accreditation or certification is right for your business and take part in the training, these act as endorsements for your organisation. Make sure that your customers and new leads are aware of the training you’ve done, and what it means for your skills and expertise.

  • Display the badge or certificate on your website and in any customer communications
  • Link to the affiliated organisation, and explain what the certification required, explaining in more detail in consultations
  • Communicate how your accreditation relates to current government regulations

There are valid arguments about both the changing requirements in the renewable industry and the concerns around the paperwork and commitments that come with different certifications, but the brutal truth is that these arguments and concerns aren’t relevant to consumers.

If those of us working in the sector are struggling to keep up with the latest regulations and requirements, think how those simply looking to decarbonise their homes must feel. Government-approved certifications might be lacking, but they are often the only things that can reassure homeowners when it comes to gauging who they can trust. To this end, you should aim to stay up to date with the latest government proposals and requirements in the sector, and be able to speak to how the solutions you’re recommending are compliant.

If you believe that these certifications can’t keep up with the industry or aren’t relevant to the way you work, there are other ways that you can show your commitment to learning in this ever-evolving sector, and the new technologies and methodologies emerging frequently. Highlight your commitment to staying updated by participating in training sessions, workshops, and industry conferences, or partnering with recognised environmental organisations or local community groups. This ongoing investment in knowledge reinforces your credibility and reputation and goes a long way in reassuring consumers.

Engaging in benefits beyond finance – climate and community

While financial savings are a key motivator in home decarbonisation, many consumers are driven by a more profound connection to environmental sustainability, community welfare, and the planet at large. A recent report by YouGov indicates that 61% of people in the UK are willing to pay more for products and services from companies committed to positive environmental and social impact.

Showing that you’re aware and passionate about the positive climate implications of your work as a renewable energy installer could be the difference between getting a customer or losing them to someone else with more green credentials and awareness. Furthermore, if a potential customer isn’t sure about decarbonisation, reminding them of the environmental benefits could be what convinces them to go ahead.

Installers often underplay the critical role they play in the decarbonisation goals set by the UK Government and globally, and in turn, the vital need for these goals as a part of a global movement to avert climate disaster. Remember that our industry is an important one, and you are the heart of it.

Local impact is a huge part of creating an effective global movement, and many community groups exist to cultivate this. Some customers are highly motivated by being a part of something tangible, where they can see the direct results of the investment, work and time they’ve contributed.

Many people feel like personal changes are so insignificant when it comes to making a positive climate impact that they are meaningless, and may abandon plans to make the switch to renewable out of apathy. But by tapping into regional initiatives that tie individual or household actions into wider progress, installers are able to remind people that they are part of something bigger.

Here are some ways that you can ensure you’re able to connect with consumers in an authentic way when it comes to their environmental motivations:

  • Be aware of local, global and national climate goals, targets and initiatives to be able to talk about these thoughtfully, and to connect each individual case to the wider movement – whether it’s the annual COP climate talks between the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and global leaders, the Paris Agreement and Kyoto Protocol for emission reduction, or the global push towards net zero by 2050 
  • Include sustainability statistics in your quotes to potential customers, for example potential carbon savings of their green switch each year, but also over a lifetime
  • Regularly attend and connect customers to local environmental groups so they can feel a part of the wider impact in their community and see how many people are investing in this change
  • Incorporate case studies of successful local installations, with real data from your previous customers so that people considering the switch can see change in action

One last thing… personalising your approach

Different types of consumers have different priorities when it comes to their intentions for and reasons behind decarbonising their homes. When you first start engaging them, it’s important to ask them what is most important to them as they approach the transition.

Here are some questions to consider when meeting new homeowners:

  • Do they have independent financing, or are they doing the work utilising grants and loans?
  • How knowledgeable do they seem about the process and the solutions available to them, or the environmental impact?
  • Are they driven by cost savings or house price increases due to energy efficiency over time, or are they more motivated by environmental and community concerns?
  • Where did you meet them? Were they referred by a previous customer, did you meet at a community event, did they find you via search or social media?

Their answers to these questions and what that reveals about their situation and motivation will help you know where your energy is best spent in your early conversations. For example, a knowledgeable consumer is likely to appreciate the effort and dedication that goes into obtaining and maintaining certifications, while someone dependent on government grants is likely to be more focused on the costs and benefits. Someone you met at a community event might be more interested in you emphasising the positive impact specific solutions can have on the environment or the local area.

Armed with these specific strategies, renewable energy installers can effectively communicate the benefits of sustainable choices to consumers, building vital trust and reassurance that can lead to long-term relationships. Effective communication with consumers means considering the context and then thoughtfully sharing the most relevant information, whether that’s incorporating financial data, accredited knowledge and expertise, or an authentic understanding of the environmental impact of the switch to renewables.

As the renewable energy sector continues to grow, installers are at the forefront of the change, and there’s never been more of an opportunity to focus on clear and compelling insights that can support consumers into this new sustainable era.