Platte Valley Equipment, a John Deere dealer with 4 locations in eastern Nebraska, closed out the first year of its E3 precision farming service program with around 25 customers. Now in its fourth year, almost 80 farmers are enrolled — and the program’s 98% percent retention rate speaks to the value customers are getting out of the investment.

Dealer Takeaways

  • Tiered service plan options with flexible pricing create more entry points for customers.
  • Adapt and adjust service plans and pricing based on customer feedback and retention.
  • Consider incentives like parts discounts and free loaners to attract new customers to service plans.

“It’s gone up every year,” says AMS Specialist Cory Allely, who is based out of Platte Valley’s Wahoo location. “The customers who started that first year with me are still doing it, and they definitely see the value.”

E3 — which stands for Enable, Engage and Educate — is unique to Platte Valley in its all-encompassing package and 24/7 dedication to its subscribers. Says Allely, “Once we make sure everything is set up correctly, we will actually go out to the field with the customer and stay out there. We won’t leave the field until the customer is 100% satisfied with their unit.”

The dealership offers a basic AMS support program, priced at $2,900 per year and covering up to 3 systems to include basic technical support and software updates. The more comprehensive E3 program, priced at $9,400 per year, includes planter and combine optimizations, RTK access, JDLink support, equipment inspections, free freight and discounts on parts from any of dealership’s 4 stores.

“We noticed that the customers were already paying for a lot of this stuff just separately so we thought we could make it into a package deal and that way they're only paying one lump sum a year,” Allely says. “It’s worked out nicely because we can help them through every part of the growing season, equipment inspections, software updates and then  getting into the agronomy side of it with some of our other programs.”

“We have an uptime guarantee that has paid off for a few customers where we get them a loaner if we can't get a problem fixed within 24 hours...”
— Cory Allely, integrated solutions specialist, Platte Valley Equipment

When putting the E3 package together, Allely says the dealership figured most customers would have at least a tractor, combine, combine head and a planter. It takes all 5 of those pieces to get through a growing season.

“The machine software is covered on all those five pieces of equipment. So if it needs an update, customers don't have to pay for that,” Allely says. “We also have an uptime guarantee that has paid off for a few customers really well, where we get them a loaner if we can't get it fixed within 24 hours.”

RTK benefits are also included in the E3 package, where if the customer has an StarFire2 of StarFire3 subscription, a JDLink subscription is included. The program also includes harvest and planting optimization, which Allely says allows lets specialists pre-check and test equipment prior to getting in the field.

Though its price is less expensive than if one were to buy all of E3’s services separately, buyers are sometimes hesitant to commit to such a large number all at once.

Bringing Authenticity & Independence to Agronomic Services

While many farm equipment dealers are deciding if and how they want to expand into offering agronomic-based services to complement farm equipment sales, there is opportunity for those willing to get their hands dirty — literally — to capitalize on more soil-centric programs
to customers.

Mark Truster, lead agronomist for Reynolds Farm Equipment, a 7-location John Deere dealership in Indiana, and Farm Equipment Dealership of the Year in 2018, brought more than 25 years of independent experience with him when he joined the dealership
in 2012.

“As an independent agronomist, especially prior to yield monitors, our work was much too subjective because our clients didn’t follow through with the evaluation step,” he says. “We recommended things, and they seemed satisfied with those recommendations. Basically, that’s what determined whether or not they would do it again.”

Truster says the post-yield monitor era and advances in GIS software have allowed for more objective agronomic analysis and execution of field prescriptions. But he still sees room for improvement with some of the tools and techniques dealers deploy with their agronomic services. 

“I’m encouraging Reynolds to purchase contract research on some products that we’re going to recommend,” Truster says. “Things that I think will work from with my agronomic bias, but then I can take that to my clients — because it’s on our dime — and say look, this created this return on investment, or not.”

One of the challenges for Truster and other agronomists is having a frame of reference to help validating of invalidate products their producers are applying based on prescriptions. “Sometimes customers come to me and say ‘Hey, what about X, Y, Z, product? And I have to say, ‘Well, either I don’t know, or what I’d love to say based on our replicated research, it didn’t do anything, or it was wonderful,” Truster says. “I’ve yet to see though, in 30 years at this, a silver bullet. I’m pretty well convinced there are no silver bullets.”

Despite any initial doubt in the value of E3, once farmers enroll, they learn to appreciate the value. This is the core of E3’s “enable” component: maximizing the customers’ access to technology to maximize their profitability.

The inclusion of JDLink exemplifies the “engage” piece of E3’s mission: the software allows Platte Valley service workers remote access to the customer’s machine’s display, helps them troubleshoot and diagnose issues 24/7 and eliminates the time it would take to commute to the customer’s farm.

Platte Valley further utilizes data from the program to help inform their customers’ production and buying decisions to be what is optimal for their businesses individually, the “educate” piece of E3.

A more recent and complementary service program the dealership launched in 2017 is Assure, an in-season extended warranty with an uptime guarantee for equipment up to 10 years old and logging less than 5,000 hours.

 “This means that if any qualifying equipment, or its warranty, fails, Platte Valley will provide a loaner machine within 24 hours,” Allely says. “Seeing some of the repair bills on used equipment and if an engine goes, that’s a big expense. What’s nice is that the program is all in-house. We’re not just here to sell customers equipment.”

Related Content:

Precision Plans: Flexible & Transparent

Hear more from Cory Allely, AMS specialist with Platte Valley Equipment in Wahoo, Neb., on the origins of the 4-store dealership’s E3 precision support packages, and some of the key features which have proven ROI for customers and keep them enrolled in the program.