As with many industries, sometimes providing post-sale services is just as important as pre-sales. In some industries, this is important to create repeat customers, while in others it can be more important due to the generation of business referrals and positive reviews. In the solar energy industry, in which a system’s lifetime is 25-years, post-sale service may not necessarily be a strong revenue generator for traditional installation companies, but it can be important for positive referrals and reviews. With an ever-increasing number of PV installations aging, so too are the number of PV systems requiring service. System owners looking for support in the event of performance issues with their PV system, tend to turn to the company that installed their system.
Providing post-installation support
Using traditional inverters that only provide system-level monitoring can create a clash with an installer’s main business focus, potentially hurting both business effectiveness and bottom line. However, not providing post-installation support could also be damaging. Luckily, installers can now leverage tools and solutions that can assist them in providing these additional services in a more time and cost-effective manner.
Solutions that offer remote monitoring are a key tool to support installers in not only providing post-sale services, but also to do so in a way that limits negative impact to their business. Monitoring solutions can help installers manage O&M so that the company’s main focus can be on installation, which drives revenue.
Installers can use these monitoring solutions at both a large and small scale. For instance, at a large scale, PV systems can be mapped out on a dashboard so that installers can get an overview of their installation fleets. These mappings can include system size and performance status. This information allows installers to schedule servicing in the same areas on the same date, to cut down on travel time and costs. On a small scale, if a system owner is reporting decreased energy production, an installer can review the system production via the monitoring platform. By examining the module-level production patterns, the installer can understand if external elements are at fault, for example a branch has grown and is shading the system throughout the day. This can be resolved without having to visit the site, so not only can a monitoring solution save the installer time, but the system owner can receive a much more rapid response.
In the event that the installer does need to go to the site to fix an issue, monitoring solutions can also help streamline this process. With traditional inverter systems, it can be difficult to find the specific problem once it becomes clear that there is decreased energy production. But by using the remote troubleshooting function of a monitoring platform, installers can examine power curves and voltage curves from their office computer to identify the reason for underperformance. This eliminates the initial system visit to determine the issue, and as such, a site visit is made only when the actual repair is being made. For instance, if a failed bypass diode is discovered via remote troubleshooting, the only site visit will be for actual module replacement. This helps the installation business streamline services while maintaining its focus on installing new PV systems.
Lifetime service offers a new revenue stream
This, however, is not the only benefit that monitoring solutions offer installers. In fact, remote monitoring and troubleshooting can help installers develop a new revenue stream. Using monitoring tools, installation companies can create a new line of business in which they offer different levels of lifetime service packages when selling PV systems. For instance, a superior offering could be a proactive service in which an installer commits to monitoring the site and addressing issues as they arise, compared to a traditional system in which performance issues are only realized retroactively, if at all. By using reports and configuring automatic alerts in monitoring solutions, this would not require a great deal of resources, but it could provide a new revenue source. This allows installers to optimize their service with a new business model. In fact, the post-sale services that are offered can be an added value that installers can provide to system owners as a competitive advantage.
Monitoring adds value for system owner
But it is not just installers that receive value from monitoring; system owners can also benefit. Monitoring platforms can be opened up to system owners to offer them visibility into their system performance. The amount of access that a system owner receives can vary. Basic data into system production, consumption, and self-consumption provides system owners with insights into their investment. This is becoming an increasingly important service given that system owners view their PV systems as long-term investments and are no longer willing to simply put a system on their roof and forget about it. Wanting to follow the progress of their investment, system owners can use the monitoring platform to regularly track their expected returns. Knowing that they can monitor the performance of their system, anywhere, anytime, offers system owners peace of mind. This added-value may be the differentiator that helps close a sale. This means that monitoring solutions may not only offer streamlining of post-sales service, but may also help improve the sales process itself.
With the current competitiveness of the PV installation business, installers need to find a way to offer services that decrease costs and increase revenue. Monitoring systems that offer module, string, and system level data along with remote troubleshooting, are a key solution that allows installers to optimize their PV business and stay competitive in an ever-evolving market.
Written by Lior Handelsman, VP of Marketing and Product Strategy, Founder, SolarEdge