Online tools and practical habits can improve efficiency and reduce the risk of customer complaints.

One of the ongoing initiatives within farm equipment dealerships that sell and service precision technology is making sure multiple departments are equipped to answer customers’ questions.

Keeping salespeople and service techs in the loop on basic installation, calibration and necessary upgrades of technology can relieve pressure on precision specialists, especially during peak seasons when they can be spread thin.

A proactive approach can also benefit dealerships when it comes to ordering and managing precision parts. John Crouch, salesperson with Newton Crouch Inc., a spreader/sprayer manufacturer and precision farming dealer in Griffin, Ga., says keeping track of orders can be overwhelming at times.

He is the primary precision salesperson for 5 southern states and also oversees the company’s widespread dealership network in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Kansas and Missouri.

With such a large precision customer base, Crouch says, “The problem is, you have to flip through a massive and complex price books and sometimes it’s hard to have a lot of faith and confidence that you did it right,” he says. “It’s hard to come back to a customer and say, ‘I left off a $500 cable in your order and now you have to give me $500 more dollars.’ Customers don’t like that.”

John Crouch, business development, Newton Crouch Inc. in Griffin, Ga., discusses the challenges of providing accurate precision farming technology quotes for customers when working with multiple components and the value of online, automated pricing tools to build confidence when pricing products.

Despite an industry push to improve compatibility of precision equipment, technicians still have to mix and match components to provide a solution for customers. Finding the right combination and then making sure the right parts are ordered can be a challenge, Crouch says.

But there are tools and techniques dealers can employ to streamline the ordering process.

One option is to take advantage of online systems that manufacturers are developing. Raven Industries introduced its Smart Quote system at its Innovation Summit this year to let dealers select, configure and price precision components online for customers.

Crouch sees value in these kinds of online tools, not only to simplify and organize ordering, but also to train staff on the system to reduce the risk of mistakes being made.

“I see a big advantage for my parts guys, who don’t necessarily get the whole picture when we’re ordering precision products. I’ve tried to show them installations and make them understand how everything works and how each component fits into a whole system,” he says. “But our parts staff aren’t necessarily in the field with the precision technicians so it’s tough for them to know which cable goes where and what’s interchangeable.

“Having a tool like this is going to give us an advantage and opportunity to do more cross-training.”

Plus, having more internal oversight when ordering can reduce the amount of back and forth with manufacturers, Crouch says. He’s relied on manufacturer reps in the past to help walk him through ordering new products, which can be a time-consuming task.

“I remember ordering a new product and it was my first time so I didn’t fully understand it. My rep had to kind of hold my hand,” he says. “Somewhere in the process of ordering $15,000 worth of parts, we left a little something off and had to next day air a component to North Carolina. We ended up having to eat some next day air charges.”

Those kinds of costs aren’t ones that Crouch says he wants to pass on to customers. Plus, he says customers expect “clean and professional” price quotes and meeting those expectations promotes a long-term business relationship.

“You want them to have faith in what you tell them is correct,” he says. “Sometimes, you just have to tell them, ‘I made a mistake,’ but if we can be more efficient, cut down costs and save face, it would be worth it.”

For more insight and tips on how to manage precision ordering, check out this recent Q&A in Precision Farming Dealer.