What types of winter precision maintenance services does your dealership offer and how are you, as precision farming dealers, successfully selling those services to farm customers?
“At our dealership we offer a pre-spring season customer meeting/training session. The grower is charged to attend it and we have in-house people along with company reps that help put it on. We make sure to cover everything a grower would need to know the first time going to the field after harvesting last year. From first-time display setup for new customers to new firmware features.
“We have concentrated so much on this service in the past that growers now expect it. They are calling me now wondering when this year’s session is going to be. They get a lot of information out of it and enjoy it. When we sell new systems to new customers, we make sure to notify them or mention to them about this service and that has helped us more than once make the sale.
“We are currently in the process of working on and developing a maintenance and ‘tune-up’ program for our customers. We are not quite there yet but are going to be there soon. We are looking to have it done by next harvest season and the customer can pay a one-time flat fee for us to come out in person to the farm and tune-up the hardware. This would range from firmware updates on displays to physically running the pieces of equipment to make sure they are responding the way they should.
“This would give the customer the confidence he or she needs to go to the field without the ‘start-up hiccups’ that we often encounter. Also, this would free us up when everybody hits the field at once, and someone really needs our help in person. If someone is not interested in taking part in our off-season program then it would be a normal service call as usual. Anyone that does take advantage of the tune-up program might get a discount on parts during that time if there was a need for some parts at that time. We don’t have all the details worked out quite yet, but we are close and probably are looking at a summer rollout for fall 2013.”
— Andy Briggs, Crop IMS, Bristol, Wis.
“Currently our dealership does not have a winter maintenance service program specifically for precision farming. The initial question got my wheels turning thinking if we were missing something, and after some thought, I feel there isn’t much service that is required as long as customers are doing their preventative maintenance before, during and immediately after the season. When I look at precision farming, I am not seeing many ‘moving parts’ that require a lot of maintenance. Our biggest maintenance item we sell is the TruCount clutch. If the customer properly lubricates and cleans the clutch system before, during and immediately after the season, most issues can be eliminated. Ritchie’s Implement actively trains our customers on the required maintenance needed to get proper function of all their equipment. This saves a lot of problems.
“Ritchie’s Implement, like many other precision farming dealers, is trying to design a ‘maintenance agreement’ for our precision farming customers. I feel this will be more important in the future than a winter service program because of updates. Most updates are released in the spring months. These updates generally improve on the previous growing season’s glitches and are crucial for customer satisfaction as well as product performance. We are discussing how to implement an on-farm product update for a customer’s precision farming equipment. Most updates need to have all controllers on-line with the display during the upgrade process. The timing on this program will be closer to the April time frame because of the need for the equipment to be hooked up for a full update.
“The dealership has been in the precision farming business for over seven years, but we have not tapped into the service side of the business with our marketing strategies. We acknowledge the need to market our version of maintenance, but have not figured out the magic program/promotion that we feel can accommodate and capture our vast variability of customers’ equipment and customer needs.”
— Kevin Depies, Ritchie’s Implement, Cobb, Wis.