Ohio dealer, farmer and consultant Tim Norris shares his diverse experience on what gets a customer’s attention with precision service.

Jack Zemlicka, Technology Editor

The list of problems that precision farming dealers solve for customers is seemingly endless.

Some of these issues are recurring, while others are singular crisis, which require a little education of the customer to avoid similar problems in the future.

Whatever the case, it’s a challenge for dealers to predict the problems farmers will encounter when working with precision technology. But a proactive approach to front-end customer service and employee training can minimize frustration levels for both customers and dealers on the back-end.

At this year’s National No-Tillage Conference in Indianapolis, Tim Norris, owner of Ag Info Tech in Mount Vernon, Ohio, shared several qualities that farmers should look for in a precision dealer.

These experienced-based tips from Norris — who blends a unique perspective as a precision dealer, farmer and consultant — can also serve as a checklist for dealers to better serve customers.

1. Show and Tell

For newcomers to precision farming, knowing the right questions to ask about the technology can be a difficult, Norris notes.

Dealers can initiate the conversation with customers to avoid confusion down the road and also demonstrate the technology in the field.

“Often customers will wait, and they’ll get to the field and try to figure it out. A lot of times that’s too late,” Norris says. “Help isn’t always readily available, so it’s better to find out that a customer has a problem before he’s wanting to plant, or before it’s time to spray or to harvest.”

Norris has eight precision employees on staff at Ag Info Tech and during the first week of planting in the spring, the company typically gets 200-300 calls per day for service. That’s lot of calls to try to address, and that’s a lot of people to try to see,” he says. “We’re not readily available to come out for every single problem right at once. It’s a lot better to try and take care of some of those issues in advance.”

Making sure a customer’s precision equipment is calibrated correctly and software is updated are things that dealers can take care of during the off-season.

2. Know the Technology

One problem Norris notices with some farmers is they buy precision technology out of convenience rather than need. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a dealership’s bottom line, this approach can strain the relationship with a customer who runs into unexpected problems.

“I constantly run into people who have made a purchase because they bought a new tractor or they bought a new combine, and they just go ahead and take whatever comes with it,” Norris says. “They don’t have any idea what the limitations are or the capabilities of that piece of equipment. Sometimes it’s free or the price is greatly discounted.

“Well, it’s actually built into the price and if it’s something that won’t do everything that a customer wants it to, was it really worth their investment?”

Taking the time to work with a customer on a precision plan will help dealers identify the right technology for their operation today, and then what will be needed in the future.

3. Be the Right Dealer

Quite often Norris will get customers who come from other dealerships that offered less than stellar precision service.

“We’ll have customers who purchased equipment from somebody else and they say they can’t service it, they can’t get them going,” he says. “We’ll go out and fix it and we usually end up with good customers for the rest of the farming season, and hopefully for the rest of their lives in precision ag.”

Benchmarks of a quality precision dealer include offering hardware and software installations, customer training, phone support during the peak of planting and harvest and on-site support.