From educating customers to maximizing efficiency and minimizing burnout, service subscriptions can have multiple benefits for any dealership, regardless of size. Here’s a look at how big-, medium- and small-sized dealerships are building their “winning” subscriptions and packages.

Covering Multiple Regions. RDO Equipment Co., a John Deere dealer with 34 locations in 12 states, alters its service packages slightly by region — whether that’s Midwest, Northwest or Southwest — to align with the unique needs of customers in different environments. 

Most RDO service packages include customer clinics, equipment inspections, field start-ups, operator training and phone support for machines with or without a StarFire Receiver and JD Link modem, machine health monitoring through John Deere Operations Center and RDO Connected Support’s 24/7 phone support.

Dick Muhlbeier, RDO’s general manager of precision agriculture, says centralized, remote support is a key component to any precision service subscription.

“When our team can remotely connect to a farmer’s tractor, often we can diagnose the problem, share a solution or dispatch the closest field service technician 50% faster than in previous years,” Mulhbeier says. “When we prove to our customers a connected tractor plus RDO’s remote service decreases the time it takes to receive effective solutions, we meet our goal to optimize every tractor supported by RDO.”

Mandatory Planter Inspections. Swiderski Equipment, 5-store New Holland dealer in central Wisconsin, offers service contracts that cover everything from planters and GPS to sprayers and combines. The contracts were an overnight hit with customers at first, but they ultimately led to unsustainable workloads. The problem came to a head in spring 2022 when the average workweek for technicians ballooned to just shy of 100 hours across 6 weeks.

Abby Weltzien, precision solutions service and parts manager, knew the customer had to meet them halfway, or they’d risk losing good people to burnout. They found a solution in the form of mandatory planter inspections.

“We keep it very reasonable at $50 a row, so a 12-row planter is $600,” Weltzien says. “The mandatory inspections keep our shop active. We sit down with every customer and go over what we found. It’s all about finding potential failures before they become an emergency in the field.”

Weltzien was nervous about how customers would respond to mandatory planter inspections. Would they tell them to go fly a kite, or would they be on board? 

“To my surprise, inspections skyrocketed,” Weltzien says. “They went from 21% in 2022 to 84% in 2023. It resulted in less service calls after hours and on Sundays. We fixed more potential failures than ever before.”

Swiderski Equipment serviced 321 units in 2023, and the average technician workweek was 27 hours less than it was in 2022.

One-Man Band. Chad Baker, co-owner of Baker Precision Planter Works in Orangeville, Ill., noticed a similar impact from his annual service agreements, which he offers to customers for $600 per machine. The agreement focuses specifically on Precision Planting equipment and includes a 2-hour, in-season planter inspection, 1 additional in-season service call and unlimited phone support. 

“Our service contract might not be as flashy as some, but it works well for us as a small, independent dealer,” Baker says. “Our gross revenue was $90,000 in 2008, and this past year we had over $4 million in sales.” 

Some customers were angry the first year Baker offered the service contracts because they didn’t realize what not having one would cost them. He’s since made sure to educate his customers on the potential drawbacks of proceeding without a contract. 

“We have some small growers with 6-row planters that tell me they can bring me out for a service call and not have to spend $600,” Baker says. “That’s fine, but I make sure they understand that we charge $125 per hour and $2 per mile if they’re not on a service contract. We also charge per 15-minute phone call.” 

MVD Plan. HTS Ag, Precision Farming Dealer’s 2024 Most Valuable Dealership (MVD), started offering service plans in 2007 when president and general manager Adam Gittins realized they could eliminate at least half of the phone calls during busy season. Only 3 customers signed up that first year, but now around 100 customers sign up annually. 

“Our service plans alone generate enough revenue to cover a full technician’s salary for the year,” Gittins says. “We let our customers know that if they want access to our team after hours, they must have a service plan.”

The 4-store, Harlan, Iowa-based dealership, which sells Ag Leader, OPI Grain Management, DJI, Autel and Hylio products, has two different service plans to choose from. One includes annual phone support only and the other includes annual phone support in addition to a spring or fall on-farm visit. Customers receive phone support, free of charge, anytime from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Noon-6 p.m. on Sunday. Both plans also include free 2-week service unit rentals while repairs are being made and a $25 per hour discount on hourly service labor.