Why a 5-star Google rating isn't enough anymore (for Australia's best solar retailers)

Why a 5-star Google rating isn't enough anymore (for Australia's best solar retailers)

Who is Australia’s best solar retailer?

Customers are forever trying to figure out who is the best solar retailer for their needs. My friends and family constantly ask me the same thing.

With so many factors involved in that decision – location, experience, component quality, installation quality, service quality, support to name but a few – it’s impossible to say who is the outright best solar retailer.

One factor that is measurable is retailer size. Getting big and staying big indicates you’re doing something right. The largest solar retailers have received Top Volume Retailer awards and endorsement from SunWiz. But being big doesn’t (necessarily) make you the best.

Five years ago you might have pointed towards your Approved Solar Retailer status as a differentiating factor, but these days there’s 1000 companies in that list alone.

We believe the best predictor for whether a customer will have a good experience is the combined experiences of a company’s previous customers. Customers can’t judge every aspect of a solar company’s offering, but previous customers are the best judge of what future customers will care most about. A lot of people rely on customer reviews when choosing a restaurant, or buying a dishwasher. That’s why customer reviews and ratings are the best way to evaluate which solar company is best. Ratings and reviews also have the benefit of being quantifiable.

I discovered the biggest problem with ratings and reviews when I recommended a solar company to a family member.

A good solar company operates a lot better than a great restaurant

A few years back I recommended a solar company to a family member on the basis of their reviews. They had an average rating of 4.2 stars, which I thought was pretty decent – a restaurant with a 4.2 star rating is doing pretty well –  but lacked context; there was no way to compare it to all other solar retailers.

I suggested the review site implementing a ranking system that identified how that star-rating compared to all other solar companies. When they released that grading, I was shocked. 4.2 stars put that company in the bottom 20% of all solar companies.

The chart below shows a density plot of the weighted average review for every Australian solar company; the quartile bands are labelled and coloured; 50% of all companies score 4.9-stars or higher; 75% of companies score higher than 4.44-stars.

Thus began my deep dive into reviews and ratings. Here’s some of the key findings:

  • Some review sites favour some retailers over others: retailers that use a specific lead generator can receive a lot of reviews on that platform, and they receive reviews that reflect their typical performance. But retailers that don’t use that lead generator typically get far lower average ratings, because disgruntled customers dominate reviews on that platform (whereas their happy customers are leaving reviews elsewhere).
  • The more reviews you have, the more likely you WON’T have a 5-star rating. The law of averages implies as you get more reviews, you’re statistically more likely to have a sub-5 star review. That one sub-5 star review will ruin your 5-star reputation for ever.

50% of Solar Businesses have a 5-star Rating; only 13% have 100+ reviews

50% of businesses in the Solar Industry have a 5-star Google Rating. When everyone is showing off their 5-star Google Review status, it’s impossible to tell businesses apart.

The number of reviews is important because it differentiates between a small business (that’s well-rated because the business owner does everything) and a larger business that’s well-rated because their business processes are great (whether or not the owner is on holiday).

The more reviews you get, the greater chance there is of receiving a less-than-glowing review. It’s statistically near-impossible to maintain a perfect five-star rating when you’ve got hundreds of reviews.  That’s why SunWiz applies minimum-thresholds (100 reviews) so that each company’s rating is statistically-significant.

The chart below confirms this, splitting the Cross-Platform weighted average review for each company in the solar industry. It shows the median business with less than 50 reviews has a 5-star rating. That drops to 4.83-star median for businesses with 50-00 reviews; 4.77 for businesses with 100-199 revies, etc etc. You might argue that this indicates that bigger businesses deliver worst outcomes for customers, except that the lower quartile progressively improves with more reviews AND the median review in the sub-100 review range gets progressively better.

To me this says “if you’re going for an entity with few reviews then there’s a fair chance you’ll have a dismal experience… AND if you’re going for a larger business then you should go for the best”.

My one key takeaway: the top ranking businesses score above 4.8-stars, regardless of their size.

4.2 Stars is Terrible for businesses with significant #reviews

Achieving an average rating of 4.2 stars might sound good at first glance. A restaurant that achieved a 4.2-star rating on Google reviews would be considered exceptional.

However, in the solar industry, a 4.2-star rating as an average makes you one of the worst solar companies in the country to choose from.

That’s why RANKING is important. And its why SunWiz is offering an enhanced recognition for companies that rank highest in reviews.

Key Lessons from our investigation

  1. Companies with a small number of reviews aren’t in contention for ‘best solar retailer’. A handful of reviews don’t conclusively demonstrate you’ve got reliably consistent processes that deliver great outcomes.
  2. Companies with many reviews should be treated differently to those with fewer reviews. That’s because the more reviews you have, the more likely you’ll get one sub-5 star rating.
  3. It’s essential to sample from multiple review sites. This reduces the companies ability to ‘game’ reviews and reduces the bias of any individual platform. We go a step further, and exclude from consideration any retailer that uses one review site for >90% of their reviews.

The Best Solar Retailers

Our aim is to assist the retailers that do best by their customers. That effort should be rewarded. Prospective customers should know these retailers are the best of the best. And everyone should have an incentive to lift their game.

That’s why SunWiz has created a Best Rated Solar Retailer award.

SunWiz has pulled in reviews from multiple highly-popular review sites and tallied the reviews for all known solar retailers. We’ve filtered out those that rely too heavily on one review site. We’ve identified those solar retailers that meet the minimum number of reviews (100) and average rating (4.8-stars), and contacted those retailers. There are also elevated awards for the subset of best-rated retailers with near-perfect scores, and those for the greatest number of reviews. The best rated solar retailers are listed here.

If you feel you’ve been overlooked and can demonstrate you’ve got more than 100 reviews across multiple review sites, with no one site making up >=90% of your reviews, and your weighted average rating is 4.8-stars or higher, then please get in touch.