We’ve all heard the phrase, “knowledge is your reward.” Sometimes, that can be a satisfying — and necessary — outlay of informational payment. 

But in the context of being compensated for a service of solution, shouldn’t that earned knowledge have some monetary value attached to it? There has long been the expectation that there’s a cost to getting most anything fixed or replaced.

This is certainly true of consumer technology. Still, the stigma of moving from free to fee with precision farming service remains. How can we get customers to consistently pay for our expertise? Won’t they go somewhere else for their equipment if we do? Isn’t our time valuable enough to be paid for it?

These were all questions dealers asked during our 4th Precision Farming Dealer Summit in Indianapolis last month. The struggle continues to be real for some who attended, as they sought sage guidance from their peers to overcome fear or focus on consistently getting paid for precision service. 

It was noticeable based on the conversations among attendees, that some were on the brink of frustration, only to have their confidence restored by fellow dealers that despite strides being made in service billing, nobody has a bullet-proof model. 

"Phones for precision specialists are the equivalent of a wrench for service techs and we should be paid for using our tools…"

Some dealers shared successes with getting customers to pay for phone support, through annual $300 plans or a $35 per call. Said one dealer, “Prepare your customers for the transition and set up-front expectations with them. You’d be surprised how willing they are to continue working with you, because billable service is common in so many other industries, today.”

Others have used their own dealership’s equipment service structure as ammunition when talking with precision customers. Farmers are accustomed to an invoice for machinery maintenance because there is a tangible outcome. 

It can be more abstract when it comes to correcting a software glitch or sensor adjustment, though no less critical to maintaining uptime in the field. One dealer offered this analogy; “Phones for precision specialists are the equivalent of a wrench for service techs and we should be paid for using our tools.”

Another dealer suggested that the value of precision specialists comes from their ability to absorb, retain and apply intellectual expertise. In
other words, problem-solving is their window to profitability. 

Specialists will likely need increased capacity to comprehend and communicate the value of rapidly emerging platforms like artificial intelligence and autonomy. Dealers will be counted on by cautious, yet interested customers to help transition to the next evolution of service and support. 

Dining with a group of dealers during the Summit, one asked how long it will take for the first customer to be 90% autonomous on their farm? There was no consensus on timeline, but there was agreement that those at the table have a responsibility to lay the foundation on the service side to prepare customers for the transition, before it’s here.