Precision Farming Dealer interviewed 5 farmers from across North America to learn what standards of service and support they get from their precision farming specialists, how much training and education is useful and available and what their biggest point of pain is when integrating precision farming technology into their farm operations.
Q: How is your dealer providing precision training/education to customers and what areas could it improve to increase the return on your technology investment?
Bushnell: “My precision dealership supplies some education, but I usually go to my Deere dealer. I’ve done some other programs, but I get a lot of support from the manufacturers and I’m very satisfied.
“I’ve gotten a lot of hardware support, but not software support. I appreciate the hardware support because I find hardware troubles especially frustrating. The local dealership has been very good about being on top of it and has offered a fair amount of education, but nothing in depth.
“Dealers need to offer the hardware, the software and then the ‘brainware’ for operators. They can save themselves a lot of work by getting some of the dumb questions out of the way early on. Let’s face it, anybody who uses precision equipment occasionally has brain fade. I’ve done it. I’ll call my precision specialist and say, ‘I know I should know how to do this, but I cannot figure it out.’ And it’s usually about a 2 second deal and then the guy calls me about an hour later and says, ‘Are you going?’ And then he tells me that was about the dumbest question he’s heard in a long time and I just have to laugh because I knew it was. But I had to ask because I just could not for the life of me remember how to go from point A to point B.
“Let’s put it this way, every time training or education is offered, I attend. The dealerships have been doing a pretty good job and there’s no such thing as too much education. If I go to a meeting and there’s just one thing that I learn, it’s a successful meeting. My expectations aren’t usually high, but they’re still a good deal.”
Richards: “My Deere dealer offers training, but it’s actually too basic. It doesn’t seem like a good use of my time to sit and listen how to do stuff that I already know how to do. Training sessions don’t tend to be tailored for the different levels of expertise, and I understand why. I used to sell some precision equipment because then I got my own stuff at 15% off. Ninety-nine percent of the time when someone would call me to troubleshoot something, reading the manual would have solved the problem.
“Before I buy something, I actually spend a lot of time reading how to operate it. I want to make sure I understand how it’s going to work and fit into my operation and do what I want it to do before I actually purchase anything. So, I’ve usually done most of my training myself by the time I buy anything.
“I think there’s room for improvement in the training offered by dealerships. They have to look at what customers they have coming to training events and they need to refine their training to fit specific niches. There’s still a role for general training to let people know what they can and can’t do, but then when it comes to actually using the stuff, I think there’s more drilling down that could be done in training.”
Anderson: “I have a rainbow of technology, so I don’t get everything from one dealer. I’m not all green and yellow and my tractors aren’t either. The dealer I get my Precision Planting equipment from has one clinic each year where he brings in someone from the company’s headquarters to teach us about the systems. All the dealers that I work with, for the most part, have been good with training on initial setup and use. They teach you where to start and how to get around the screen to make the steering work adequately.
“Having a precision specialist in the field in my equipment seems to be the most useful initial setup training. We aren’t proactive about seeing how it’s all going to fit together.”
Jepson: “My Deere dealer has classes we can send our operators to for training. We have a couple of really good AMS specialists in our area and they’ve done a good job of making themselves available to walk us through problems we have and get everyone prepared for the season. Many times, they’ll have a lunch in the winter and go over the software or a new program.
“At the last training class I went to, they were promoting Shared Coverage on the GreenStar system. We’re not using that right now because of the price point, but eventually we will have it, so we’re being exposed to what’s coming next at those educational functions. They had simulators set up that we could use and they walked everybody through how it worked.”
Margraf: “The dealership I work with runs field days and clinics in its training center 2-3 times a year. They built the training center with tables and an overhead projector to be able to run demonstration software. They do a nice job of covering all the new technology. They also do a great job of relating it back to some of the older technology and telling us how our older stuff is still adaptable and can still function and do some of these things.
“I’ve also invested in the actual computer software to do everything. A lot of guys I know give their data to their dealer to dismantle, but I do all of that myself. Sometimes I feel like I’m the lone guy out there working on these things and I’m often more inclined to call the manufacturer directly to get an answer.”