Winning in residential solar:
Effective account servicing is key
How the right servicing partner can accelerate growth and facilitate access to capital
By David Johnson
The residential solar market has been on a tear. Solarbuzz noted that the demand for solar energy has risen by an average annual rate of 30 percent over the past 20 years, and will hit a projected $96.8 billion by 2014, nearly triple 2009.
Despite this prodigious growth, competition in the industry has grown even faster. There are thousands of installers and a new generation of well-funded, venture backed startups is bringing new business models to the market at a rapid pace. As these new companies and models have entered the market, speed to scale has become more critical than ever.
Customer financing models in the form of leases, power purchase agreements and equipment purchase loans have become one of the main drivers of market growth and a key competitive edge for companies. But solar companies have found the ongoing servicing and management of these arrangements to be well outside their core competencies. Outsourcing this key activity can greatly enhance a company's scalability. But choosing the wrong partner can quickly turn into a black hole for management time.
Servicers are often viewed as simply payment processors but the right one can offer a lot more. Better customer relations and headache-free service are just the beginning. The right servicer can also facilitate capital accessibility and help accelerate growth.
The trick is evaluating which servicer can deliver these benefits. There are many intangibles, but here are a few common threads:
They invest in state of the art, cloud based IT and communications platforms. Forward thinking servicers don't wait to build scalable, secure, dynamic platforms when you need it. They have it now.
They have the infrastructure that banks and other financial institutions require. Financial institutions have a high bar for servicers. An SSAE 16 process audit is a common requirement as are intrusion detection systems, penetration testing as well as a host of other process and security related capabilities.
They have a strong network and reputation in the financial community. Major bank clients? Check. Large investment bank clients? Check. A servicer who is known and respected in financial circles will open doors for you.
They have a management team you feel good about. Common ground should be easy to find. You should be learning from them while they learn from you. Their ambition should match your own.
In this day and age of exponential growth combined with increased competition and rapid price declines, residential solar companies must look at all angles to keep a competitive edge and sustainability in the industry. While not quite so obvious to many, the right loan servicing partner can be one of the best assets toward enhancing market viability. It requires looking at them for what they can bring to the table, not just what they do administratively.