Some years ago, I was tasked with helping a solar retail company to re-launch itself. One of the very first questions I asked was: “What software packages are you using for quoting? And design? And as a CRM? And for document sharing? And for lead management? And sub-contractor management? And for post-sales support?”
I asked these questions because, with the benefit of hindsight, I could clearly see that to be successful as a solar retailer in such a competitive environment, operational efficiency was absolutely fundamental – and most solar companies use as many as five to 10 different pieces of software to operate.
Cross-platform integration is typically poor or non-existent. Time is wasted trying to manage all the different databases, training staff, and keeping them synchronised.
And – in desperation – a lot of solar companies still use spreadsheets as a consequence.
Whilst enterprise level software is available, it’s completely unaffordable for the average Australian solar retailer and often a nightmare to adjust in line with changing market requirements.
This is exactly what OpenSolar has set out to address. After a highly successful pilot trial over the last six months, OpenSolar officially launched in Australia today.
The team behind the platform were global pioneers in solar quoting and design software, pioneered by Sungevity, one of the largest solar companies in the US, whose founders are Australian.
When they were looking for the way to have the most impact on solar and the climate in their next gig, they took all the lessons they learned and built an all-new product, which was thrown down the road, stomped on, bashed around, and tested in the cut and thrust world of the Australian solar retail market.
The other fundamental driver behind OpenSolar is to help overcome the design and retailing quality problems that plague many countries – including Australia.
By making incredibly powerful software that is simple to use and universally accessible, their goal is to help solar companies around the world to make better solar.
It features all the usual functionality that you would expect – intelligent roof mapping, fast and simple adjustments, comparison tools, product pickers, pricing and cost input options and, of course, full branding and quote templates for residential and commercial, just to name a few.
It also includes a CRM function to help you manage your customers, with one-click calling and filtering and useful tools in the field, like image uploads, and configurable work-flow, and action-setting from any device. And it has a pretty comprehensive online support center with training and videos.
But where they have really excelled is in making things super fast, super simple, and super flexible.
They have some amazing new technology built in, which allows users to do things like jump in real time between the proposal and the design zone (which we all know is key in the real world as customers provide feedback and things change).
There is also automatic panel layout and 3D modeling; fast ‘SolarTouch’ design for super-quick and accurate proposal generation live with customers; and interactive digital proposal views.
Customer education tools and video capability is also included, as well as configurable contracts and PDF’s, comparison tools like setting the timeframe of each system’s warranty to compare financials and support up-selling.
In terms of battery storage, there is full battery functionality, including up-selling battery to existing solar customers. And finally there is also a profitability tracker in the design tool, so you know you’ll make money every job.
But software isn’t cheap, especially good software, and this is where OpenSolar’s goal for accessibility is a game changer – because it’s free. Yes, free.
So what’s the catch you say? How are these guys actually going to pay for all this whizz bang stuff that you can use for free?
That’s pretty simple – they get hardware providers to pay for personalised branded proposals for their dealers. In return, manufacturers can create premium content and upload sales and marketing templates, images, videos or support materials ready for solar retailers to use.
They get presence, you get a free tool. Welcome to marketing 101, digital style.