Derick McGhee, integrated solutions manager at Heritage Tractor in Baldwin City, Kan., will be the first to admit that safeguarding customers’ information is a job that’s as important as it is challenging.
“Quite frankly, it’s something we struggle with,” says McGhee. “Someone could walk up to our parts counter and say, ‘My corn yielded this amount,’ and that is information. We need to make sure that we are not spreading that information or misrepresenting it in any way.”
With so much data going digital these days, protecting privacy is more complicated than keeping an eye on parts counter etiquette. The data being pulled from precision farming equipment is not only more valuable, it’s more sensitive and easy to mishandle.
Some dealers may have anticipated this pitfall and responded by drafting and signing privacy agreements with customers. However, developing custom policies and agreements can be challenging and the implementation and training around data security can seem overwhelming. But the Western Equipment Dealers Assn. is offering a universal solution to members, and any other precision dealers who deal with farm data.
In late 2013, WEDA created a set of documents for John Deere dealers in response to the manufacturer’s encouragement of dealers to address privacy and data security in connection with Deere’s FarmSight initiative.
“It started with a number of our members coming to us and saying that they need assistance putting these documents together to protect customer’s information and privacy,” says John Schmeiser, CEO of WEDA. “Honestly, they weren’t even sure where to start, but they knew they had to have something in place.”
Through the use of dealer focus groups and related research the association built a model they call AgriDocsHQ, which in essence, is a package of documents and training material that modernizes and standardizes dealer agreement forms.
Since Deere dealers, including Heritage Tractor, started implementing the documents in 2013, the distribution has grown and the forms are now available to dealers of all colors throughout the U.S. and Canada.
A few proactive dealers had already taken it upon themselves to implement a policy of their own. But after looking at the costs of doing so, the association saw that standardizing agreements would be more efficient financially and logistically.
The U.S. model forms and data security training and implementation materials come with a $4,099 price tag for association members and $4,999 for non-members. Their Canadian counterparts cost $2,775 for members and $3,275 for non-members. More information on the program can be found at www.agridocshq.com.
“What we’re offering is only about 10% of the cost of what dealers would pay to build these documents and training materials on their own,” says Schmeiser. “They also wouldn’t have the consistency of the language with what other dealers were using.”
In addition to having a legally sound and consistent protocol to handle the added pressure that comes with managing data, McGhee admits to seeing little choice in the matter. He says that if you don’t have a proper policy in place you may lose trust of customers.
“Internally, you just have to meet your customers’ requests, and they deserve to know their data is protected, so we need to provide that,” says McGhee. Although the documents themselves don’t provide direct sales opportunities, he says, having them in place gives customers peace of mind that dealers have their best interests at heart when dealing with farm data.
“Now that we do feel comfortable with the protection we’ve got through the documents, our business services piece will continue to evolve and grow,” says McGhee.
He also notes that the real return on investment doesn’t come from the documents themselves, but the environment they create. With customers feeling that their data is secure in dealers’ hands, they are more likely to be open to new services.