As Solar PV becomes more mainstream, one of the few ways which installers and businesses can create a point of difference in the market is through the service they offer their customers. SMA’s new service offering in Smart Connected provides a way for you (as an Installer or Solar Business) to enhance your connection with your clients, and begin to offer additional services without adding significant costs, effort or expertise by relying on SMA’s intelligent monitoring and diagnosis systems. And best of all, it’s free to both you and your clients. Read below to understand more of the benefits.
1. The system is monitored by the people who know the most
As an installer and business, you will know that the inverter is the most critical part of any solar system, and no one knows SMA inverters better than SMA. After producing the world’s first commercial residential solar inverters over 25 years ago, SMA have been continually researching, monitoring, analysing, designing and manufacturing residential solar inverters. During that time SMA has been consistently recognised as the world’s most popular inverter brand. There is more solar power around the world using SMA’s inverters than any other manufacturer.
All this experience is now being channelled into the new service offering, Smart Connected. With future proofed communication interfaces like WiFi and Modbus SunSpec®, the new Sunny Boy can be quickly, cheaply and simply connected to Sunny Portal. Once Smart Connected is activated by either the installer, business or system owner (completed in minutes during the process of registering on Sunny Portal) the system will be continuously monitored and analysed at a central location by SMA.
2. Pre-diagnosis without needing to go to site
The best solar system is one which never has any service issues. Each time you need to return to a site to diagnose a problem with a system, it costs time and money. There is the issue of getting in contact with the client and arranging when to visit site, then there is the time and testing on site to establish the root of whatever problem has arisen, plus potentially multiple calls to SMA Service line.
Smart Connected removes these problems and costs to a business by allowing pre-diagnosis through SMA’s online systems. When problems arise, Smart Connected means SMA are alerted to the issue. The information the system provides is also available to the original installer or solar business. Using both Sunny Portal and the analytics of Smart Connected back at SMA, the issues with the inverter system are able to be diagnosed, likely causes established, and a list of recommended actions generated.
SMA will then provide this information to the original installer or solar business for that system. So rather than travelling to a site to perform checks on string voltages and currents, downloading error logs, calling the SMA Service line for support, this can all be pre-diagnosed back in your offices or on your smartphone wherever you might be without needing to go to site.
One of the greatest advantages of Smart Connected is the potential to greatly reduce service related costs. Traditional warranty process from SMA or other manufacturers often require a site visit to perform system checks to diagnoses whether an inverter may require replacing under warranty.
Since Smart Connected will automatically identify problems or errors related to the inverter, and provide pre-diagnosis information, the corrective action for a system experiencing issues can be determined before travelling to site. Where the inverter needs to be replaced, Smart Connected will arrange this to be delivered to the site designated in Sunny Portal within specified times under the Smart Connected agreement. As the original installer or solar business, you will be contacted to advise that the system requires attention. Not only do you not need to visit site an initial time to establish an inverter needs replacing, only to then return once the inverter is shipped to site, you can more conveniently organise with your clients when to perform an inverter replacement. If you know you will be in the area the following week, you can schedule the quick swap out of the inverter at that time. One truck-roll plus pre-diagnosis means your travel related service costs will be more than cut in half, and your time onsite will be more efficient. And what is good for you is also good for your clients.
4. Positive Service interactions with your clients
Every installer or business will have received that phone call from a client who is angry to discover their solar system hasn’t been working properly. Smart Connected is about turning this around so that rather than being the last to know about an issue with one of the systems you’ve installed, you are now the first.
Since the system is continuously monitored through Sunny Portal and Smart Connected analytics, pre-diagnosis information will be available to you in the shortest possible time. Rather than responding to unhappy clients and then speaking to SMA Service about what site tests need to be performed before corrective action can be determined, Smart Connected will provide you with all the information. You are then able to contact your client (who may not yet even be aware there is a potential issue with their system) to explain what the issue is, what corrective action needs to be performed and then arrange with them a time which is convenient to undertake the corrective action.
Good businesses rarely need to look for new clients and opportunities; the clients and opportunities come looking for them. One of the main reasons a new client might be referred to a business is because a family member, friend or neighbour will have had a positive dealing with that business in the past.
Nothing makes clients happier than knowing there is someone there looking after their problems if they ever arise. Smart Connected helps make this a reality and ensure all your interactions with clients will be positive leading improving your future business opportunities from those client’s referrals.
6. Build new service offerings to your clients without additional investment
Smart Connected and the information available to you as an installer or business can provide you with the tools to build new service business models around the ongoing monitoring, maintenance and future potential upgrades to a solar system (e.g. adding AC-Coupled storage). This can allow you to change the value offering you give your customers, potentially moving from upfront capital arrangements to ongoing service arrangements. Set up automated alerts for systems based on certain criteria which might signal it is time for maintenance.
Use data to provide clients useful information about their energy consumption and lower cost optimised AC-coupled storage solutions through Sunny Design. Use the information to provide better offerings to future customers. All these new service offerings are waiting for you to purse them. And best of all, you don’t need to make any additional investment in specialised system to achieve this. Smart Connected has it all there ready and waiting to be used.
Smart Connected, the new service offering with Sunny Boy inverters, is better than a traditional product warranty from SMA or other manufacturers and will allow you to provide service to your clients in new ways. Smart Connected means not only is the inverter being monitored by the people with the most experience, the information it provides will allow you to reduce your service related costs and enhance the future interactions you have with your clients.
Through enhanced and positive service interactions with clients, you can better grow your referral business leaving you with more time to focus on new service offerings and ways to change your business to meet the needs of a changing market. With Smart Connected, SMA wants to help you, the installers and solar businesses, improve your connection to your clients so together, we can continue to offer the market class leading residential solar, storage and energy management solutions.
Smart Connected is automatically activated with new Sunny Boy inverters when they are registered in SMA’s online monitoring platform Sunny Portal within 31 days of installation. This can be done simply, cheaply and quickly thanks to the inverter’s future proofed communication interfaces and WiFi capability. During the process of registering the system on Sunny Portal you or your client will be prompted to fill out some information about system which will include:
- Solar System / Client’s Address
- Installer or Solar Business’ Contact Details / Address
- Some other basic contact information
The process should not take more than a few minutes and the information will only be used as part of the Smart Connected process if any problems arise with system (information will remain private according to the Data Protection Declaration in Sunny Portal).
Once Smart Connected is activated, the only things the client needs to do keep the service active is:
- Ensure the system remains connected to Sunny Portal
- Update any contact details if they happen to change
- Fill out online claims for reimbursement (where applicable)
So apart from ensuring the system is able to remain connected to the internet and updating details if they happen to change, nothing else is needed for the benefits of Smart Connected to remain for the duration of the factory warranty period.
I lead the Application Engineering department at SMA Australia, which provides pre-sales technical support for Residential, Commercial and Utility scale systems. I also work closely with Product Management to help refine SMA's solutions to be better suited to market requirements.
Market issues, SMA product suitability, new business opportunities, Asia Pacific Region (APAC)
Reading to my children, volunteering at my local football club, skiing, wine tasting (only good wine though)
What even my colleagues don’t know about me:
Have travelled to Nepal to deliver and install a rural hospital solar lighting aid project. Received my Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s award personally from Prince Phillip in 2004. Once spent a night lost in the wilderness on a trek because our group was reading the map upside down.