Customer service and support are the key to profitability according to precision farming recruiter T.J. Stauffer.
One of the ongoing challenges for equipment dealers to develop or expand their precision farming interests is finding the right people for the job.
T.J. Stauffer, precision ag recruiter with Rich Connell Agri-Search Inc., discusses trends in finding and retaining precision farming specialists and what traits dealers should be looking for when starting or expanding their precision employee base.
Talent and experience are at a premium in the industry, and dealers should have a clear vision of what the type of employees they want, says T.J. Stauffer, precision farming recruiter with Rich Connell Agri-Search Inc., based in Arthur, Ill.
“I have a lot of dealerships that want precision farming departments, but they don’t know anything about precision farming,” he says. “Even if they’ve been selling and servicing precision technology, as a dealership, the management are usually from the sales side of the company, or maybe a service manager promoted to precision operations manager.
This can be a limitation to profitability, and at the recent 2013 InfoAg Conference in Springfield, Ill., Stauffer shared with Precision Farming Dealer his experience working with dealerships to assemble a precision department and offered advice on what dealers should be looking for in new hires.
Stauffer spent 8 years working as a precision farming specialist, selling and servicing a variety of brands, before transitioning into his current role as a recruiter. He works with dealerships to understand how their precision business can feed equipment sales, through superior customer service and support.
“Precision farming is very high maintenance. Lots of service calls, lots of troubleshooting. It’s usually hard for dealers to get it to stand alone and make money,” Stauffer says. “A customer can buy a tractor at any number of dealerships within the same 100 miles, but where are they ultimately going to make that machine purchase? More and more, they’re going to buy from the place that has the best precision farming support.”
This philosophy is important to keep in mind when targeting new precision farming specialists, he says. Farm equipment salespeople may have success selling precision products, but can they also provide the necessary level of service for customers if something breaks down?
At the end of the day, Stauffer says, those people trained and skilled in “technology troubleshooting” should be the most desirable hires. A good gauge for dealerships on whether they made a successful hire is to evaluate performance after planting season, he says.
“Does this person have a spring under his or her belt? Typically, the person will burnout and leave, or begin to get traction and grow those qualities needed to succeed,” Stauffer says. “If they don’t like solving problems, they won’t do well.”
When working with dealerships, Stauffer emphasizes the number one complaint from farmers is having technology work when they need it to in-season. Even the most reliable products don’t function 100% of the time, so listening to customers and providing the best customer service in the area will boost business, he says.
“Precision service influences a customer’s decision making process and they will come back just because they know they are getting that superior level of customer support” he says. “Dealerships are realizing that they may not always have to be in the black with precision farming, but if they invest in a precision department, it’s going to bring in sales and make them more competitive.”