Having visited with dozens of precision farming specialists — often at their dealership — one of the things I take note of is their interaction with customers, fellow employees and me.

The vast majority, whether only a few months into the job or several years into their career, are personable problem solvers. Having a casual comfort with sales, parts and service department employees is an asset, especially since precision specialists tend to work with all three areas of a dealership.

This same dedicated demeanor is evident during customer conversations. Having formally ridden along with 7 different specialists for our Day in the Cab series (look for our next installment coming in the Summer print edition), there is a common thread connecting all of them — a commitment to customer service.

Reflecting recently on my first ride-along with Phil Moskal, Integrated Solutions Manager a Mid-State Equipment, the day had its share of hiccups and unplanned troubleshooting. But he noted that the daily challenges and customer interaction are two of the most enjoyable parts of the job.

Moskal’s mindset isn’t unique, but it isn’t always obvious either, especially in new precision hires. Many students and recent graduates are honing their electronic, mechanical and technology skills making them qualified candidates to step into a precision specialist position.

But what makes them truly desirable and more likely to succeed, is an understanding of the “soft skills” needed to negotiate with a customer or collaborate with a co-worker on a project. 

As Zachary Ward, agricultural technologies instructor with Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wis., told attendees at this year’s Precision Farming Dealer Summit in St. Louis, “communication, work ethic and having a good head on their shoulders are traits dealers look for in precision candidates.

“In some instances, dealers are using personality tests to identify these soft skills because it’s not always easy to get those from a half-hour or 60-minute interview.”

While colleges and universities can assist in developing these skills, dealers also have a responsibility to arm their specialists with the social-skill ammunition needed to help them not just survive, but thrive.