For Paul Bruns, owner of Precision Consulting Services in Canby, Minn., customers who routinely procrastinate with their seasonal mapping and display set-ups cause frustration, stress and even inefficiency.
The precision farming consulting company offers data collection and soil sampling services along with equipment for variable-rate application and other hardware. As is the case for many dealerships, spring can be an overwhelming time of year.
Recently though, Bruns decided to implement a rigid schedule for seasonal services that helps keep his customers on task and minimizes some of the in-season stress for him and the customers.
“Some growers would just wait until April 1 every year before they decided to give us a call to build a planting prescription to be used on April 10, and it was frustrating to have to rush around to get them ready,” says Bruns. “One of the biggest advantages right away of putting together a timeline worksheet for the customers is that it shifted some accountability and responsibility back onto them.”
The timeline essentially outlines actions customers need to take to receive service and the window in which he or she can request a specific type of service. For instance, monitor set-ups are scheduled from March 1 to April 10 and yield data processing must be done by December 1.
Bruns says instituting the timeline has helped set expectations on both sides. While the dates have some flex to them based on the season, they still provide a deadline for customers. If customers want prompt service, they'll need to operate within the designated timeframe provided.
“Even though I’ve already had to get tough a few times and say, ‘Hey, you didn’t follow my timeline, I can’t just drop everything and run out to you,’ it’s really helped me manage our workflow better,” he says. “In a way it’s actually part of what they’re paying for.”
The new arrangement helps ensure that Bruns’ clients are serviced ahead of schedule and gives him a chance to prevent a sudden rush of service calls — in essence, benefiting customer and provider equally.
“It’s not really that much to ask from them,” says Bruns. “We put it in their hands and clearly define what we were expecting of them. Also, our bookkeeping staff has a more solid policy to reference when they make calls. They can call customers and say, ‘Remember this timeframe? When can we set this up before the cutoff.’”
Having a bit more structure to setting-up appointments allows Bruns to use his time more efficiently when it comes to meeting customers’ exact needs.
“With the timeline requirements in place, growers know when they should have their planter hooked up, set-up and ready to go when we arrive at such and such a date,” says Bruns. “That’s the difference between spending a quick 30 minutes taking care of them or wasting precious hours reinstalling things we hadn't budgeted in our day. At least this way we also know ahead of time if we’re going to need to be reinstalling harnesses, modules or displays.”
With a more predictable schedule for seasonal work, Bruns has been able to move things around on the calendar to his advantage as well.
“Previously, we did all of our grid sampling in the fall behind the combine, but recently moved that to spring and early summer sampling," he says. "We sampled about 8,000 acres last summer with our Wintex soil sampler and that opened our fall schedule enough to pick up a pull-and-drop grid sample contract for an additional 8,000-plus acres. That ended up being a huge revenue boost for us — almost enough to buy our next Wintex machine.”