Proper training and preparation can reduce stress levels for precision farming technicians during busy seasons.
This time of year, precision farming personnel are putting plenty of miles on their service vehicles, getting customers set up for planting or troubleshooting technology problems for farmers already in the field.
To a certain extent, a generational gap contributes to the volume of spring calls that precision specialists handle, says Andy Feckers, technology sales representative with Altorfer Ag Products.
“From a training standpoint, I think we can do a little bit better there, getting the older generation of farmer prepared to use precision technology before they go into the field,” he says.
But education efforts by dealers shouldn’t be limited to veteran farmers, he says.
During a visit with Feckers at Ag Leader Technology’s training facility in Ames, Iowa, he told us that he’ll work with a range of customers — especially those newer to precision technology — during winter months to make sure their equipment is properly calibrated, updated and installed.
This gives customers a “hands-on refresher” on how to operate their technology, so when the snow melts and they start planting, there is less of a chance for confusion and a call for service.
Andy Feckers, ag technology salesman for Altorfer Ag Products in Clinton, IL, shares some of the common problems he deals with as new technology is introduced into the market. According to Feckers, patience is crucial when educating farmers. It's also really important to give them plenty of time to get comfortable with their new equipment.
“I’ll show them which buttons to push or how to set up their AB lines because in the spring, they don’t always remember certain functions when they are out in the field using the technology,” Feckers says. “This helps eliminate some service calls I’ll get.”
But educating customers is only part of the equation in avoiding unneeded stress during busy seasons.
Precision technicians also need training to make sure they aren’t steering farmers in the wrong direction with technology solutions, says Andy Boyle, training coordinator at Ag Leader. A technician’s lack of knowledge about a product will only compound problems that customers have once they take their precision technology out of winter hibernation.
Boyle says it’s crucial that precision technicians get hands-on training with equipment so they understand how technology works and what to do if a customer has a problem with it.
“There aren’t too many places where dealers can go and actually operate a piece of machinery. Dealers are used to a PowerPoint or having someone present to them,” Boyle says. “We provide laptops and displays as teaching tools and use a simulator as a problem solving tool for dealers. We’ll replicate problems on equipment that dealers have to find a solution to, so that when they get into a real-life situation, they will know what to do because they’ve seen it before.”
Customer education and technician training won’t completely eliminate the routine calls that Feckers receives from customers during peak times of the year. But, he says, taking a proactive approach can strengthen relationships with precision farming customers and save them time and money.
“Some dealers over-promise and under-deliver and that irritates customers,” Feckers says. “The more you know as a dealer, the better of you are going to be. Anything that puts you a leg up on the competition will benefit customers and that leads to long-term satisfaction.”