Chad Elmore, Managing Editor
For farm equipment dealers, running a successful precision farming program means focusing much of the department's attention on after sales support. The efficiency at which a specialist or technician can troubleshoot a problem in the field will make life easier for all involved.
Darin Kennelly, precison farming specialist for Birkey's Farm Stores, shares some of his experiences troubleshooting. The dealership was the subject of Farm Equipment magazine's first "Dealership Minds" special report. See the video below for a short interview with Darin.
When Farm Equipment spoke with Kennelly, he estimated 60% of Birkey's farmer customers had some form of precision farming technology in their operation, from light bars on up to more sophisticated systems.
"The more complicated or the higher value the product is," says Kennelly, "the higher the level of stress we're going to incur. When a farmer is having issues he's usually on a time crunch, too, especially in the spring. They have to get it the planting done now, for example, and it can often take a while to diagnose a problem in the software.
"The old rule of thumb in electronics is it takes 5 hours to find a problem and and 5 minutes to fix it. A lot of times that's true -- it can take you a long time to find a very simple problem, but you know that the farmer needs to get going. That can be very stressful."
Birkey's service technicians are trained to do installations and troubleshooting. A lot of times when the specialist sells a system, he quotes it with certain amount of labor built in."
Adding to the stress is that "When I get called the customer is typically already angry because the system's not working. I don't usually talk to a lot of happy customers, usually I'm talking to ones that are angry because something's not working right and the service technician has been out there and they can't figure out what's going wrong. That's when I get called in to try to figure out what the problem is and get it running. In a lot of ways I am here to put out fires. In season, during the busy seasons of fall and spring that's a lot of what I am doing.
"While there can be hardware issues, all of those components have software that's stored into them and makes it work. A lot of the issues we see in the field end up being software related.
"I make it a regular practice to make follow-up calls. I can't say that I always get to everybody, especially during the busy season. I try to call and check in on them, especially if it's somebody that I'm not convinced is running. If I tell them, 'why don't you try this and then call me back,' and I don't hear from them for a while I will call him back and make sure it worked."