How to Retain Customers: 5 Tips to Good Service

From on 01/08/2013 in Category Company with 35 Comments
SMA Service - Vor-Ort-Service

The photovoltaic market is changing a great deal these days, and as a result, installers are facing new challenges. In addition to core business offerings and well-made products, customers expect extensive service and support and quick responses when service is needed.

Exceptional customer service is a key component to success. When you provide excellent service, you create loyal customers. Even more importantly, excellent service does more than simply ensure existing customer loyalty – it also attracts new customers through referrals or word-of-mouth.

It is particularly important to maintain an ongoing relationship with your customer. If you think about it, taking simple steps to ensure the loyalty of an existing customer takes less time and energy than acquiring a new customer.

With these five tips, your customer will remember you and will be likely to recommend your products and services to others.

1. Take time

Explain to your customer exactly how a PV system and inverters work. Be specific and provide examples (e.g., how the display works).

2. Give good advice

Get in contact with your customers before their factory warranties expire and explain to them the advantages of an extended warranty.

3. Act, don’t react

Inspect your customer’s installation at regular intervals. Being proactive with pre-scheduled service calls can help prevent major repairs in the future. Plus, it shows the customer that you are reliable.

4. Monitor performance

Check performance figures and discuss them with your customer. Recommend a communication product that is appropriate for their needs. It will help you collect important data at the customer’s site and when service is needed, the SMA Service Line will be able to help the customer more quickly.

5. Make a nice gesture

Send your customers a Holiday or birthday card or just send a note every now and then to check in and thank them for their business.

Do you have additional tips? What are your experiences? We look forward to hearing your suggestions.

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The Author

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Jessica Dumont is a public relations specialist for SMA America. She is focused on news, industry trends and what's happening at SMA.

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35 Comments

  • avatar

    George Rivera

    12/11/2014 at 10:42 am

    I had my solar panels for less than a year when the comm module (Q-module) on one of the Sunny boy inverters failed. I could not get the company that installed the system to replace it. I could not find a replacement module online. I got so disgusted with SMA that I disconnected the offending inverter and replaced it with Enphase microinverters and I could not be happier. Their customer support is much better at Enphase. I will replace the other Sunny boy and replace it with Enphase microinverters as well.

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Todd Wright

      12/12/2014 at 9:44 am

      Your installer screwed you, you couldn’t find another one on E-Bay so you swapped out the entire system with micro inverters? Did you even try to call SMA directly? I have never had one issue with SMA’s service. Good luck with your new system. You’ll need it.

      Reply »
    • avatar

      Justin Dyke

      12/12/2014 at 10:57 am

      Hi George,

      I’m really sorry to hear of your comm module failure and ensuing frustrations. For our knowledge, did you contact the SMA Service Line directly or were you working with your installer to try and resolve the issue? Also, which inverter model did you have? With this information we can make sure this doesn’t happen again.

      Once again, we’re very sorry for your experience with our products and hope your new micro inverters work well for you.

      Best,
      Justin

      Reply »
      • avatar

        STEVE

        05/24/2016 at 12:06 pm

        I am going through basically the same problem only with my Sunny 9000 tl us-12. The installer said said Sunny boy engineered the system for 42 panels 255 watt each. The system has never put out more than 70 just 3 or 4 times in the last year and a half. Pretty sad for an expanse of over 30m. I had to have another solar installer come in and he said the system would be overloaded with 42 panels and suggested we cut it down to 33 and put the other 9 on en phase micro converters and add 6 more panels to bring my system to 12.4 kw. Now all we have to do is get Sunny boy to stand behind the problem or go to Em phase, which I believe to be a better system. Good luck in getting a hold of Sunny Boy! I have been on hold for 4 hours !!!

      • avatar

        Justin Dyke

        05/25/2016 at 5:04 pm

        Hi Steve,

        I’m sorry that you have been unable to reach the service department. I have escalated your concerns and one of their team members will be in contact soon.

        Best,
        Justin

  • avatar

    Jan Pettersen

    01/24/2015 at 12:25 pm

    I am an ovner of SB 5000 TL-21 Installed in Norway.
    No i am very incerten about the country specific parameter settings.
    Country:Norway
    language: England.
    Can You help me?

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Justin Dyke

      01/26/2015 at 9:44 am

      Hello Jan,

      Thanks for reaching out. For our North American products, the country and language settings are established during the initial commissioning. However, this could be different for products elsewhere in the world. It is best for you to contact our main Service Line in Germany (+49 561 9522-1499) for further assistance.

      Best,
      Justin

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Rob

    01/31/2015 at 11:34 pm

    I am at a remote locatiin. One of our A/C inverters is down not allowing the system to function. The installer sent out local repair guus that only do cosmetic repair. The system is down. How do I bypass the bad inverter to bring the rest of the system online. Is there a troubleshooting manual?

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Justin Dyke

      02/02/2015 at 9:10 am

      Hi Rob,

      I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble with one of your inverters. The best way to get this resolved is to have your installer call our Service Line while he is onsite; he will be walked through a diagnostic procedure and if the inverter warrants replacement, the installer will perform that work. Please have him contact us at 877-697-6283.

      Best,
      Justin

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Chris Roberts

    07/06/2015 at 5:55 am

    Hi, I have a Sunny Boy installation here in the UK. Great system no troubles at all – installed in 2011. I have been using a PC for work to run the SMA explorer software as all my other devices are MACs. I leave the company on Firday and just realised I need a MAC compatible solution. I am confused from blogs – Is there or is there not a version of SMA Explorer that runs on a MAC please? If not what other options do I have please? Yours very confused. Danke fur ihren helfen. Chris

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Justin Dyke

      07/07/2015 at 10:47 am

      Hi Chris –

      Glad to hear your system has been running so well. Do you need to use Sunny Explorer for daily operations or can you change to Sunny Portal (which does work on Mac)?

      There is not a version of Sunny Explorer compatible with Mac, it needs the Windows operating system to work. The only other option would be to run Windows on your Mac through some sort of visualization software.

      Best,
      Justin

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Kris

    09/15/2015 at 7:13 am

    Is there an issue with Sunny Portal right now? We have roughly 1000 webboxes in the field and almost half of them went down around 6:00AM CST – Spread between a couple hundred different clients/locations.

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Justin Dyke

      09/15/2015 at 9:30 am

      Hi Kris,

      Our service team just checked for you and Sunny Portal is up and running with no problems. It will be best for you to call the Service Line at 877-697-6283 for a further look into any issues.

      Best,
      Justin

      Reply »
    • avatar

      Justin Dyke

      09/15/2015 at 9:52 am

      Hi again, Kris,

      Our service team has also told me that this can happen if someone accidentally deletes an admin-level user from a Sunny Portal account. This might be something to look into, but we still recommend calling the service line.

      Best,
      Justin

      Reply »
  • avatar

    THOMAS

    01/04/2016 at 12:09 pm

    Hi Rob ,
    I am reaching out to you because you sound knowledgeable about the SMA products , of which I have been most satisfied with . ( over 50 installs , 0 problems ) . I do , however , now have an issue with programming the Sunny island , which I have called tech support here in western US to help resolve with no solution as yet .
    Can you explain how to program the SI 4548 for self-consumption ? I have 2 systems with a 4 and 5 kw Sunny Boy respectively with battery bank of ( 8 ) 102 amp hr. glass matt batteries , Smartformer , and SI 4548 . I have been trying since their installation September 2015 , and have not had any success. My clients are upset with the result , and I am beginning to lose the confidence I had in offering the SMA product . I have reached out by e-mail and phone to everyone I can think of to resolve this ,
    Thank you ,
    Thomas

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Justin Dyke

      01/04/2016 at 4:13 pm

      Hi Thomas,

      There are a few settings that might be of interest to your customers, but nothing that is the all-encompassing self consumption you’re looking for. The system can be set to not export power to the grid and only using the grid as a generator. Also, the system can be set to allow power export but only import grid power at 1 amp to maintain a grid connection. Also, a PLC and SCADA system using Modbus with a WebBox to maximize self consumption is another option.

      Hope this helps and best of luck,
      Justin

      Reply »
      • avatar

        THOMAS

        01/05/2016 at 9:54 am

        Thanks Justin for your quick reply ,
        Yes , I am looking for the all-encompassing self-consumption which appears to be the way the literature ( diagrams and explanations ) that I have read and have printed from the SMA website intimates . Are you leading me to I understand that the SI 4548 will not accomplish this ? Does it mean it must be in the software programming ? Is another of the SI models such as the 6048 , or another , able to accomplish this ?
        Of what help , in technical terms , would the PLC and Modbus with a WebBox help ? Would I be able to export to the grid during sunny periods , release stored battery energy at night , then when used up trickle charge until sun rise ? I am trying to utilize as much solar energy as possible and only take ” sips ” from the grid when necessary as the average cost / kwh is $ 0. 33 here where the job is located .
        Appreciate any other insight you have ,
        Thomas

      • avatar

        Justin Dyke

        01/05/2016 at 11:31 am

        Hi Thomas –

        It might be best to clarify what we both mean by self-consumption. For us, the system would need a smart energy manager like the Sunny Home Manager in Europe, or in this case the PLC and Modbus here in the US to intelligently control loads within the home. For systems that are grid-tied but don’t want/need the smart management controls, it might be best to set the Sunny Island to not export power and only take power from the grid when needed. This is called Grid as Generator, and is detailed in section 14 of the manual, under Grid (14.2.6 in manual version 1.2). This has been done in parts of Hawaii and the Virgin Islands where power is similar to your costs. It will then be up to the homeowner to actively manage loads and usages to maximize their system performance.

        Let me know if this is closer to what you’re looking for,
        Justin

  • avatar

    Thomas

    01/08/2016 at 9:52 am

    Hi Justin ,
    I have from my emails to you and tech Support gathered that the SMA self consumption system is a limited self consumption system . What I mean by that is this :
    The equipment we have assembled in 2 systems , wired according to SMA manuals with SMA Technical Support and Commissioning as self consumption systems , will NEVER back feed the grid . This back feed is essential to keeping system using as much solar energy to off-set utility costs , relying on battery @ night to further reduce utility costs . To have the system ” idle ” while the sun is shining is counterproductive . I understand it is the Sunny Island that controls this . Can’t some updated firmware for the SI be written to allow back feed , instead of the 3rd party equipment you described ?
    I have intention to install many more systems attempting to reach the ” ideal ” self consumption system . I would like to use the SMA products because of their known reliability , of which I am a personal witness . Are there plans to do some updating to meet the current utility situation we face here and elsewhere ? ( curtailment and downsizing of home-based PV )
    Thank you ,
    Thomas

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Justin Dyke

      01/08/2016 at 3:36 pm

      Hi Thomas,

      We are not able to create an ad-hoc firmware version but as you know, there are many ways to customize the working parameters of the Sunny Island. It would be best for you to speak with one of our hybrid energy specialists over the phone to discuss and resolve your concerns in real-time when you’re at the install site to review current system parameters and possibly input new ones. In case you need it, the Service Line can be reached at 877-697-6283.

      Best,
      Justin

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Wagner Matos

    02/01/2016 at 2:05 pm

    I`m using a 7000 HV-11 inverter with 15 modules trina 305w just one string conected to DC connection + and -.
    I growing this system to 24 modules in to strings 12 + 12.
    My question is: How to connect this 2 strings on the inverter? I have to use connection (+ and -) or (++ and –)?
    Thanks

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Justin Dyke

      02/02/2016 at 8:31 am

      Hi Wagner –

      The Sunny Mini Central (700HV-11 you’re asking about) is not supported here in North America so I’m not able to help you. Please let me know what country the installation is in and I’m more than happy to provide better contact information to help you.

      Best,
      Justin

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Bj

    04/06/2016 at 9:51 am

    Can I put a Type I or Type II surge arrester on the SunnyBoy 3000TL-US-22 and Sunny Island 6048 -US? Or should I place the surge arresters on the incoming dc and ac connections/conduit? Please advise Thanks

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Justin Dyke

      04/08/2016 at 10:08 am

      Hi BJ –

      We don’t require a lightening arrester for these systems but many customers have installed them by choice or by need from their AHJ. Many customers have had success with the MidNite Solar devices here.

      All the best,
      Justin

      Reply »
  • avatar

    joe

    05/12/2016 at 10:57 am

    I have questions about the SMA Sunny Boy 6.0 SB Inverter:
    1. Where is the unit physically manufactured. I thought all your units were manufactured in Denver.
    2. What is the battery port for? Per the docs: can you tell me what this refers to?

    If you have set the operating mode Battery bank or BatCha, make further settings: • Select the parameter Minimum On power for MFR battery bank or Mlt.BatCha.Pwr and set the desired value. This will configure the power threshold from which the battery is to be charged. • Select the parameter Minimum time before reconnection of MFR battery bank or Mlt.BatCha.Tmm and set the desired value. This will configure the minimum time which must elapse after charging the battery before the battery can be charged again.

    3. Can you tell me why when I call tech support i either sit on hold for minutes on end and when I leave a message as I did on Monday of this week, that I received no call back even 4 days later?

    thanks

    Reply »
  • avatar

    Joe

    05/14/2016 at 9:41 am

    How to connect sma sunny boy 6.0 sb inverter to my current home wireless network.
    Inverter is in my garage.
    My wireless router is in the house.
    Running an Ethernet cable between inverter and home wireless router is not feasible.
    Therefore on my PC I have to switch between my house network and sma inverter network.
    This seems like an unnesscary burden.
    How do I configure the sma wps wireless to join my home network.

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Justin Dyke

      05/17/2016 at 11:55 am

      Hi Joe –

      Thank you for your feedback. I have shared your questions and concerns with the service department and they will be contacting you shortly.

      Best,
      Justin

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Bj

    05/17/2016 at 12:50 pm

    I have a SB3000TL-US 22 and a SI6048. The array is going directly to the DC disconnect. I want to place some surge arresters at the DC point an AC point.
    There are no breakers or surge arrester between the PV array and DC disconnect
    How can I wire in a DC surge arrester for the PV panels at the DC disconnect?
    Can a surge arrester be placed in the SB and SI itself? Please advise. Thanks!!

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Justin Dyke

      05/17/2016 at 6:18 pm

      Hi BJ –

      Those are great questions. I have forwarded them to our service department and a technical expert will contact you soon.

      Best,
      Justin

      Reply »
  • avatar

    John Wallingford

    07/12/2016 at 8:12 am

    How do I go about extending the warranty on my STP 24000TL and STP 15000TL inverters? I have a total of 36 inverters on my site.

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Justin Dyke

      07/14/2016 at 6:28 pm

      Hi John –

      I have shared your information with the SMA Service Line, which will be able to discuss warranties. A team member should be in contact soon.

      Best,
      Justin

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Roland Stearns

    07/12/2016 at 12:08 pm

    Hello,

    I just sent the following to your Service eMail before seeing this comment box. It seems worth it to send again to reach a broader group. Thanks for noting:

    Hello,

    We are in the process of purchasing/installing a roughly 3.27 KW [string] Sunpower panel system that interfaces through one of your Sunny Boy inverter systems.

    I have telephoned both Sunpower and your own tech support, but haven’t been able to reach someone who can give me definitive answers to the following:

    1. The brochure from you provided by our Legend Solar [St. George UT] installer indicates that one of the inverter systems would be from your 3000TL-US [or larger] line, and shown on the brochure is what appears to be a 1500-watt “5PS” emergency inverter for periods in which the grid is down. We have a 2KW gasoline Honda generator and residence transfer switch/breakers connecting to a limited amount of our house circuitry to include the refrigerator and certain lighting and outlets. We are not currently interested in more emergency power than that, but also would like to have more than the 1.5KW available through this “5PS” inverter.

    2. Is there any means for upgrading ths 1.5KW inverter to 2-3KW at this time?

    3. If not, can you give us a reason [safety or regulatory?] why not, and;

    4. are there any plans to upgrade this is in the future?

    We believe that it would be a large plus for your company to offer the extra KW during periods when the grid is down, especially in view of the fact that in such cases, the panel array could still be generating a potential 3KW+ of power, but that can neither be used completely by the home owner nor presumably, be returned to the grid/electrical company [in case of power outages].

    Thanks greatly for taking the time to give us whatever information you can. Sunpower representatives did suggest that we should contact you about this.

    Regards,

    Dr. Roland Stearns
    Cedar City UT 84720

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Justin Dyke

      07/14/2016 at 6:38 pm

      Hi Roland –

      Those are great questions. I have shared them with our technical experts and a team member should be in contact soon.

      Best,
      Justin

      Reply »
  • avatar

    Charles Lee

    10/20/2016 at 3:11 pm

    I installed 9 KWH solar system in 2003 and started to use it in 2005. (60 BP SX150 solar panels). I had three converters and from SMA. All three converters were replaced by SB4000US-12 converters. The last one was replacement about June 30, 2014, Serial No. 2005200332. About three days ago, the converter kept getting AFCI error, but it might last several hours.
    This morning, It would not start. I checked the AC source and it was normal 238 to 241VAC. I checked DC source, it was 318 VDC. I reset it 5 times, it still gave me AFCI error without generate any power.

    Please tell me what can I do? I am not the original installer, but I did install all my replacement converters. Last time, the original installer’s company tried to replace 2 bad solar panels. They came here three times and could not fix the problem. (due solar panel size difference and polarity issue).
    Some connecting lines had been cut and taped several times by the specialists. I finally fixed the problem by moving new panels to the edge and fixed the problem. All the BP solar panels are 14 years old.
    Please give me some good advice, so I can fix the problem.
    Please email me the advice, since my phone is though satellite, very offend I can not hear the whole sentence. 1-951-795-4358

    Reply »
    • avatar

      Jessica

      10/20/2016 at 3:15 pm

      Hi Charles, we would definitely like to help. Please reach out to our service team via email if that works best for you service@sma-america.com or 1 877-697-6283. Thank you!

      Reply »

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