Talking with both farmers and dealers in different parts of the country, most say it’s been a smooth planting season, aside from a few hiccups. Looking at the May 11 crop progress report from the USDA, both corn and soybean planting were well ahead of 2014.
Of course, the stability of the season doesn’t translate to precision specialists being any less busy. In fact, our recent poll revealed that the majority of dealers expected 2015 to be busier than past years, with 46% of respondents predicting a more chaotic season, compared to 43% expecting the same volume of service calls and only 11% forecasting a less hectic time of year.
While some specialists compare themselves to fire fighters this time of year — responding to one technology blaze or flare up after another — some also see opportunity to be precision paramedics, so to speak.
In addition to supporting customers’ typical precision needs, one Midwest dealer also began offering a mobile hydraulic service to provide “on-call” assistance to local farmers who break a hose and need a repair or new one made right away. The company invested in an enclosed trailer stocked with different hoses, hose fittings and a crimper to shuttle around to customers at a moment’s notice.
“We market the service as when someone calls, we’re there,” the dealer says. “It’s kind of like an ambulance in that we’ll respond to those precision emergencies.”
The company began offering the support about 4 years ago, in part to establish a competitive niche, but also to generate additional high-margin precision product and service revenue. It’s not unusual for the company to charge a minimum of $100 per hour for the mobile service and sometimes turn a profit of 100-200% on parts or hydraulic fittings.
It’s been a lucrative endeavor and a well-timed one in light of the recent slowdown in precision hardware sales. But one of the keys to maintaining the service as an attractive one for customers is to deliver on the promise of prompt and reliable problem solving.
This is one of the reasons the Midwest dealer has under-marketed the service, despite its success. “If all of our service techs are in the field already and someone calls, we can’t say no,” he says. “Someone always has to be available, which is why we’re limited in the distance we can cover. If a customer has to wait 3 hours, we’re not going to be able to charge what we do now.”
Balancing a specialty service with the day-to-day chaos specialists manage can be a challenge, and the last thing a dealer wants is to disappoint core customers. But if done effectively, dealers can turn the triage of a busy season into a sustainable source of income.