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It's done: I have a working solar system on my roof.
If you've been keeping up with regular installments on my journey with Vivint Solar (see "5 Unexpected Questions From My Pre-Installation Experience," "My Vivint Solar Installation: 7 Things to Expect," and "My Vivint Solar Installation: A Post-Install Retrospective" you know that this is the end of a very long road. That is, if you, like me, have the patience of a modern consumer and consider 8 months "a long road."
If you have been following my reports, you know that, a month ago (June 12), Vivint Solar's crew installed their system on my roof. Now, several weeks later, the blazing-hot July sun is being magically turned into electricity to feed my family's considerable energy consumption. I say 'magically' because it really does feel that way.
Six weeks ago, my roof was adorned only with a broadband receiver.
One week ago, I had a bank of mirror-like panels gleaming from that roof, with nothing to show for them. A broken piece of crown molding that Vivint pledged to fix had also appeared in my study.
Now, those panels are actually sending usable electric power into my house.
But how did we get from there to here? As I close the curtain on the whole installment/onboarding phase of my life as a solar owner, it's only fitting that I give you one more report on how it happened, what went well, and what didn't...
June 17: I change hands
Right after your install is complete, you start to wonder if you've done the right thing. There's some serious buyer's remorse.
Well, this would've been a really good time for Vivint Solar to deliver some TLC and reassure me that I've chosen wisely. Unfortunately, they let me wait for almost a week.
I finally received an email from my new customer success manager, who we will refer to as Frank, on June 17. To be honest, I had forgotten that I had been assigned another customer success manager previously. It wasn't until I went back into my email folders that I found this message from my original customer success manager, whom we shall call Steven:
This effort only reminds me that I never heard from Steven again, not to schedule the install, not to congratulate me on the install, nor to find out if the install went well. Needless to say, at this point, I'm not expecting much from Frank.
As previously mentioned, Frank's email does arrive...
I've changed hands, from a customer success manager that I forgot I had to one that I'm expecting will forget me. Not the most ideal way to start a 20-year relationship. All I can do is read the email, give a sort of "here's-hoping" shrug, and moving on with my day.
June 18: The loan gets real
After not hearing from Vivint solar and then only getting notification that my assigned customer success manager had changed, this email from Mosaic (the lender that finances most of Vivint Solar's projects) is the last thing I want to see:
So, if I was reading everything right, the loan payments would be showing up circa August 25-and I still have no idea when my solar system is going to start generating those savings they promised us. New loan payments + no savings = me freaked out.
I start to wonder if I'm going to become one of those bad reviews where someone waits several months or even a year before their system is actually running. Will I be that guy making loan payments for a dead solar system and kicking and screaming only to get zero response from Vivint Solar?
Just for good measure, just in case I wasn't already freaked out enough, Mosaic sends another email that same day:
June 23: Molding, anyone?
Getting impatient about the lack of news about them fixing my crown molding, I decide to put my new customer success manager to work with this email:
He replies the next day with this not reassuring email:
Either Frank really isn't interested in getting my molding fixed or Vivint Solar really has an internal communication problem.
June 30: Some news
Twelve days later, my wife mentions that some guys had been looking at the solar equipment now installed on the side of our house. This is promising, I think, unless they ended up rejecting the permitting application whatever other piece paperwork had to be cleared for us to get our solar system working.
The next day, I receive this promising news from Frank:
I start to freak out less. Suddenly, it seems likely that this process won't stretch on forever, leaving me to make loan payments along with the same electric bill I'd been accustomed to paying. But I'm still doing the math in my head. Solar system might be turned on around July 7. Loan starts August 25. That seemed like a comfortable margin, but what if the system had problems, problems that took a month to fix?
July 11: They still care
I get a cute customer service email, complete with a stock photo of a little girl on a mobile device (not sure how that relates to my non-operational solar system).
I don't think they really want to know how they're doing. They haven't done a great job of communicating. I've received scary loan emails, and no one from their end has reached out to me to put those emails in context. They seem to be out there "doing stuff," but I have no idea what. This email is probably their way of checking off a box on their customer care checklist. ("We do care, see? We sent you that email with the cute stock photo. That's us showing you that we care about you. See?")
Sorry, I'm not feeling cared for. I also don't feel like telling them how they're doing, for fear I will say something unkind.
Unbeknownst to me, this very same day, an employee from our local power company visits our house and turns on our system. He instructs my wife to let Vivint Solar know. Cryptic.
Once I find out later that night, I send an email to Frank:
I still have no idea what's happening. Obviously, things are happening fast and furious now, but who knows when the next item on the checklist will be completed?
Oh, and just in case you caught the mention in my email, no progress has been made on the broken crown molding in my study.
July 12: Waiting for the permission to operate letter
First thing the next day, Frank replies to my email:
"Two weeks"? I mean, it's nice to know that we are on the last leg of this thing, but that takes us to July 26, dangerously close to August and loan-paying time. And we still don't know if it will work once everything is turned on.
On the plus side, it's nice to finally get an update on the crown molding situation, even if it's just to tell me that no progress has been made.
With these two thoughts burrowing into my mind, I resign myself to hunkering down for the next two weeks.
July 13: Permission granted!
It turns out, I don't have to wait two weeks. An email arrives in my inbox with the subject line, "Vivint Solar Permission to Operate." My heart does a triple somersault as I open the email. Could it be my deliverance is at hand?
Luckily, I'm at home when I receive the email. I giddily snatch up my laptop, head outside, and reverently complete every step. With each one, I half-expect my solar system to explode in a cloud of sparks due to a mistake on my part, but only a gentle hum comes from the equipment. When the switches have been flipped, however, there's no way to really tell if it's actually making electricity. I stare at a digital display for about 10 minutes, looking for answers. When none come, I head back inside and decide to set up my new account on the Vivint Solar website.
This takes about two minutes. Instantly, I'm taken to a dashboard that shows my system's energy production (in kilowatt hours) for the day so far (of course, it's zero), the last 7 days, month to date, and lifetime. It even tells me cute things like how much I've saved in trees, barrels of oil, and minecarts of coal. Even if everything is zero, it's still an electric (ha ha!) moment.
For the next couple minutes, I can't stop myself from refreshing the page once every 30 seconds. This could become addictive.
But what happens next is truly stunning. Less than two minutes after I've created my account, my phone rings. It's Frank, and he's a real person. The speed at which he called me is so unlike any of Vivint's previous interactions with me, which had all the urgency of a covered wagon ride to Reno. It's so fast, it's scary.
Frank confirms that everything is up and running and asks me if I have any questions or concerns. No, I say, but I'm not about to let real person Frank get away without scheduling a time to get my molding fixed.
We book a time for the following week, I reassure Frank that I have no other questions, he hangs up, and I go back to refreshing my dashboard page.
I'm making electricity.
July 21: Is the waiting over?
As I write this, I am expecting the Vivint repair crew to visit my house some time today, conveniently placed between 11am and 2pm. Will they follow through this time? Only time will tell, and based on Vivint's track record, that could be in two hours or two weeks.
Vivint Customers Beware
So what does all this chronicling mean for someone out there considering a Vivint solar system? It means that you need to adjust your customer service expectations. In most retail situations, companies have learned to hold customers' hands from beginning to end. This is not the case. Vivint Solar and other solar companies are notoriously bad at providing a consistently strong customer experience from beginning to end. They tend to come on strong at some times and then abandon the customer at other times.
To see what other customers have said about their experiences with Vivint Solar, visit their reviews page today.