A quick google of Tesla in the news today shows the many popular perspectives of Tesla. It’s popular amongst investors to talk about how much money Tesla needs. It’s popular amongst environmentalists to praise Tesla for moving us off of fossil fuels. It’s popular to talk about how Elon Musk is going to fail, and it’s equally popular to talk about how he’s going to succeed. But very few people are imagining and talking about the type of end to end customer experience that’s possible with a combined Tesla & SolarCity.
So let’s imagine for a second the difference between the current Tesla experience and the potential future Tesla experience. I tood delivery of my Model S a little over a month ago, so I’ll share my current experience as compared with what I’d love to have experienced with a combined Tesla & SolarCity, aka “Future Tesla”.
Research & Awareness
I live in Silicon Valley and Teslas grow on trees around here. There are showrooms in multiple locations, test drives are only a phone call away, and I happen to have a friend that already owns two. Combine that with a very fascinated media and it would actually be pretty surprising if someone wasn’t aware of Tesla. While Silicon Valley is not representative of everywhere, more and more major metropolitan areas are gaining the showrooms, superchargers, and install base where this trend is only going to increase.
So how many of you have heard of SolarCity before the Tesla intent to purchase announcement? If yes, how long have you known about SolarCity and how much do you know? That’s exactly my point. Unless you are currently in the market for solar, you most likely heard about Tesla first, have heard more about Tesla, and would identify the Tesla logo if asked. Do you know what the SolarCity logo looks like? Tesla has the stronger brand. It has more showrooms, more product in the market, and more media talking about it. From a research, awareness, and ability to go somewhere and touch the product, Tesla will make it easier to learn about bringing solar to your home.
Tesla Design Studio
The Tesla Design Studio. It’s fun, educational, and allows the buyer to preview the object of their affection until delivery. I can’t underscore the value of that configurator in understanding the economics of the Tesla. It helps understand financing options as well as what level of car you can afford.
Imagine the Tesla Design Studio expanded to cover an entirely integrated product portfolio. The current Design Studio educates the user on the Teslas energy consumption, but the expanded Design Studio can now factor in energy production, and the costs/expenses associated with the entire solution. How many solar panels do you need to operate both your appliances, and your configured Tesla Model 3? How much energy storage do you need based on your lifestyle?
The integration advantage potential is super high. I would hope and expect that at every corner Tesla is pointing the advantage of how the Tesla solar solutions work better and smarter with the Tesla automotive solutions. If Tesla nails this, there’s no reason for a Tesla automative customer to look anywhere else besides Tesla for their solar needs.
We all know what it’s like to test drive a potential car, but some creativity is needed when pondering how consumers will be able to evaluate an integrated solar residential & transportation solution. I would love to see Tesla mock up the garage of the future in their showrooms. Put me in the shoes of the future me. Allow me to imagine my Tesla powered home connected to my Tesla vehicle all working in perfect harmony. Perhaps even have a choir sing in the background when I first plug the mock charger into the car, queue the lights, and the garage comes alive illustrating the flow of energy from sun to car. A company like Tesla could, and should have a lot of fun with this.
When I was first thinking about this article, my attention went straight to thoughts of what hte final sale would look like. Similar to purchasing my recent Tesla, the sales cycle is months in the making, and I’m sure years in the making for many. By the time my wallet is finally coming out, it’s time for Tesla to capitalize on all this investment in the consumer experience. My wallet came out for my Model S, but the only sale Tesla capture was that of an expensive car. Not bad, but Tesla left money on the table. I would definitely considered switching to Solar, along with a Powerwall & Wall Charger had Tesla put all this together for me into a nice checkout experience. For many people, the sale also includes a considerable amount of time and thought into how to finance everything. Future Tesla will likely make this part incredibly attractive. Imagine no longer signing a lease or loan for a car, but a combined finance package that is entirely tied to your capacity to produce energy. I’d love to see the cost of my car heavily subsidized by my ability to produce more energy than I need. This would not only lower the total cost of aquiring all the solar components, but also potentially lowering the cost of the car.
The current wait to take delivery of your Tesla is both an unexploited revenue opportunity for Tesla, as well as a deterrent to buyers that want more instant gratification. Future Tesla has the opportunity to fill this “wait time” with many more touch points. By charting a post sale path that includes site visitations, panel/battery/charger installation, as well as accessory & service upsells, both the customer and Tesla form an even tighter bond, increasing revenue & customer satisfaction. Of course this is assuming all goes well during that period, but let’s stay optomists and assume Tesla well execute well on that part. It’s track record with consumer satisfaction is pretty solid.
Based on my recent experience, Tesla has room for improvement, and Future Tesla could radically refine this process to include all aspects of the future solution. The area most ripe for improvement is in consumer training & education at delivery. My recent experience was brief and felt rushed. Many areas of the car were skipped or rushed. Some of which even resulted in a few support tickets being opened the week following, only for me to find out there were simple explanations to both. The AutoPilot features weren’t covered because the trial wasn’t turned on yet. But I’ve heard from others it’s not really covered even if it is. The mobile app wasn’t covered because it also has a delay in being activated. These cars do so much, this is a big opportunity for Tesla to take some queues from Apple retail and provide more training either at delivery or at an appointment that follows soon after.
Why this is important to get right now is because Future Tesla will have an even more featured, more complicated solution to train the customer on. This is an opportunity to train the customer on services that may generate future revenue, including features the customer is most excited about that have just been purchased. Tesla customers are fanatics. We allocate a good deal of money to the Tesla experience. Tesla spending more money to make sure the delivery experience is better than other car makers and other solar vendors is extremely important.
This last year I had the opportunity to pick up an Audi in Germany at the factory. This was prior to the Diesel scandal so things were upbeat and positive. Customers are treated to an amazing buffet of hot and cold food for as many visits as they have time for, including an open coctail and coffee bar. There is a retail store to make Audi branded purchases, and a timeslot for you to take delivery of the vehicle and receive a bumper to bumper training of the car. I would highly recommend Tesla to send a secret shopper over to Audi to experience this first hand. It will make the bucket of cold water and soda Tesla puts out look like a PTA meeting, especially considering that the prucahase price of most Teslas dwarf the purchase price of most Audis.
Post Sales & Services
You know that amazing in-car toucscreen? and that Tesla app on your phone? Those are the portals with which Future Tesla will communite everything from service updates, to in-car purchases. Your home will communicate it’s energy production just as simple as your car currently communicates it’s energy usage. This again is a big opportunity for innovation. This is Teslas chance to stay in touch with you constantly. Is your house producing or using energy at certain times of the day? Can it educate you on ways to improve your energy savings? The answer is yes, and yes. Tesla will become not only your partner in energy solutions, they can also become your #1 resource in managing your resources and energy education. Imagine your home giving you signals on energy usage in the same way that Fitbit type devices can now tell you everything about your body’s energy usage.
It’s an exciting future for sure, one that Tesla has within its grasps. Its a future that many of us satisfied current Tesla owners would gladly embrace.
Only time will tell how it all plays out, but in terms of the consumer, Tesla + SolarCity is a good thing.
And if you haven’t purchased your Tesla yet, for short time more you can save $1000 off the price of a Model S or Model X.