OPINION

My insider experience in solar system sales left me mortified

My insider experience in solar system sales left me mortified

I've been involved in financial services for most of my working life.

I have started, developed and sold a number of companies in financial services and I like that there is a certain truth in numbers. Numbers don't generally lie.

After a capital raise, and then the sale of my most recent venture in financial technology in 2019, I decided to take a break from my corporate lifestyle.

My wife and I wanted to renovate our home, as part of which I set out to get solar installed.

Unfortunately, the experience was far from enjoyable.

I had no experience when it came to solar, so I knew it was important for me to do my homework to make an informed decision.

But as I started digging deeper into what options I had available, I realised the variance in price for the exact same technology was in the thousands of dollars.

Moreover, it was next to impossible to find factual financial data to help me gauge the impact the solar would have on my electricity bills.

Making matters worse, every salesperson I engaged with gave me the exact same, stock standard sales pitch, with no real explanation of what each product would achieve for me.

I was encouraged to sign on the dotted line, with little more than hand-drawn diagrams, a Google image with solar panels slapped on the roof, and the misleading promise that "you'll have no power bill".

The entire process was unprofessional, inefficient and misleading ... and don't even get me started on all of the guarantees and incentives that never materialised.

In the end, I engaged the company I thought to be the most reputable and even took a position as a solar salesperson with them.

I mistakenly thought that this would help me to understand the industry at a more robust level and would ensure a top-quality install on my own property.

Unfortunately, I was let down in both these areas.

While I assumed that the sales and product training I had been given, along with the information I would be presenting to potential customers was factual and accurate, it quickly came to light that this was not the case.

While I became one of the leading sales consultants, only after a few months my clients were calling me with complaint after complaint - underperforming systems, failing units, installations done so poorly that systems had literally fallen off walls.

It was unbelievable! I began paying a number of customers out of my own pocket because I was so alarmed that a system, I had sold to them in good faith, had let them down.

I experienced being let down myself with my very own employer bungling my own solar installation for nine solid months, costing me thousands and wasting my time.

I couldn't believe that this was the experience they were satisfied to be giving one of their own.

It was the catalyst I needed to realise that something had to change in the solar industry.

There was an element of honesty, transparency and reliability that was severely lacking, and Australians everywhere were being left thousands out of pocket for systems which were outrageously overpriced.

I realised that when it came to solar, many Australian consumers are simply in the dark when it comes to quality and price.

I resigned from my position and redirected all of my energy into designing and building a technically advanced solar search engine, a platform that would connect reliable solar companies to Australians keen to install solar in their homes.

But first, I would need to find these reliable solar companies.

To create a set of criteria and to get a true understanding of the industry, I surveyed more than 130 solar companies across Australia.

I asked them about everything from their pricing, to install procedures to complaints handling.

I was sick to the stomach when I realised systems I had sold to customers for $12,850 were available for about $6500 from other reputable companies, and it was the identical product.

It was just another example of the outrageous inflated prices in the market that relied on ignorance and misinformation.

It highlighted the need for a central platform which provided consumers with access to the entire market for solar brands and a connection to the very best and most reliable installation companies in Australia.

I partnered with digital technology expert Hersh Singh, and together we created a platform designed to put buyers first. Our goal was to create disruption in the solar Australian solar industry, to provide complete price transparency, and so bidmysolar was born. Bidmysolar is the ultimate solar search engine and a market-first, with only fully vetted and reliable solar companies allowed to bid on the platform.

Australian homeowners shouldn't have to second-guess their decisions, or waste valuable time or money when they are just trying to make sustainable decisions for their household.

While I wouldn't wish my experience on anyone, I'm glad I was given an insider glimpse at this industry.

There are reputable and trustworthy providers out there, it's just a matter of finding them.

Bernie Kelly is a Australian solar expert.

This story My insider experience in solar system sales left me mortified first appeared on The Canberra Times.