Contributing Authors: Jenny Petersen, Joanna King, Casey Niemann, & Jerrod Westfahl
When we see a customer go with another dealership for their next equipment purchase, we may simply chock it up to a better price, brand loyalty, or a higher quality product. But what if the customer’s purchasing decision was actually driven by their experience?
Customer experiences in agriculture have always been more relational than transactional, especially when compared to other industries. With the rise in technology, connectivity, and mobility, farmers expect more from their trusted advisors than ever before, making every interaction an opportunity to give customers a positive experience and shape a long-term customer relationship.
While most companies acknowledge the critical importance of taking care of their customers, many don’t apply the same level of rigor and resources to improving the customer experience as they do to other key purchase drivers, such as product and pricing. Given the strategic environment in which many equipment dealers now operate, competitors can quickly eliminate product innovation advantages and customer expectations are rising.
Customers who had the best past experiences spend 140% more compared to those who had the poorest past experience, proving that if customer experience isn’t at the top of your priority list, you might want to start rethinking your service strategy.
This white paper explores five questions to evaluate your current customer experience and six strategies to improve your customers’ experiences and your bottom line.
If you are still on the fence about whether your customer experience may be in the need of some supplemental
updates, ask yourself these questions to better understand the state of your customers’ experience:
If you aren’t the first resort for issue resolution, you need to evaluate why your customers aren’t turning to you. Perhaps you let them down in the past. Perhaps they don’t know that you have a service team available to help.
Once you know where customers have the most questions or confusion, craft a proactive plan to address questions before they have to be verbalized. Fill in the gaps in your customer experience and help your customers know that your team truly understands their situation. These solutions take time, investment, and mindshifts, but research proves that a great customer experience drives profitability.
Do you know what differentiates you from your competition and keeps your customers returning? Note how you are building your dealership’s strategy, executing, measuring, and optimizing to drive revenue growth through increased loyalty. If your primary goal is retention through great customer service, your hiring plan and resource allocation should reflect service as a priority.
One of the largest constraints faced by dealerships in agriculture is fragmented communication resulting from disconnected teams. Often times, dealerships have experts with a wide breadth of knowledge across varying topics, and that expertise is difficult to disperse across a large territory and volume of customers. Identify your team’s weaknesses so you can identify the technologies that could help you deliver a better customer experience and improve employee morale.
Modern technology has changed the way food and fiber is produced today. Innovations in technology have helped us improve yields while reducing waste. We’re living in the age of the digital farmer, so we need to adjust our support plans to cater to the digital experience they expect. When dealerships leverage new technologies, they will begin to see changes in how they engage with customers and prospects and will be able to make greater impacts on the bottom-line.
Using technology effectively can begin to remove pain points when dealerships are working with customers.
However, many organizations still have gaps in their customer experience strategy or are slow to adapt to the rapidly evolving sales environment. To begin improving, dealerships should ask themselves:
Central Illinois Ag is an example of a company improving their website to help cater to their customer’s experience even further than before. Their website now revolves more around their customers and their online selling opportunities.
“Agriculture and the use of digital tools are almost inseparable today. Technology has become much more accessible and data more valuable for decision making. Mobile technology, such as smartphones and apps, have become particularly useful in agriculture.”
Nate Dorsey, Agronomist, RDO Equipment6
“The ability to remotely support a customer is becoming increasingly important in today’s world. We utilize [technology for] better visibility to what the customer is experiencing to better support him by reducing or possibly eliminating a visit to the tractor.”
Barry Peterson, Integrated Solutions Manager, Papé Machinery7
Customer retention is a growing concern and one that many dealerships are struggling to address. With customers’ ever changing expectations of products and services, it can become difficult to meet prospects’ needs. In fact, customer satisfaction and loyalty have been some of the top challenges for dealerships in the past few years. As retention rises on the agenda, customer experience is beginning to take a seat at the head of the table to act as a more central role in dealerships.
For dealerships to analyze their current customer retention and loyalty and why it may not be up to par, they can ask themselves a few questions:
“Our precision department has a 90%-plus customer retention rate over the last 20 years,” Keith Byerly says. “Our goal is to not spend all our time on cold-calls finding new customers -- it’s deepening the business relationships with the ones we already have.”
Keith Byerly, Central Valley Ag, 2018 Most Valuable Dealership
“When you look at the product support business — and this is what our customers appreciate the most — it gives us the repeat business, the loyalty, right? And to actually have a career path where you could be a parts manager or service manager and move up to product support manager or a regional product support manager, or up to some of the highest levels in our company with that product support background, that reinforces not only how important it is to our customers, but the importance of parts and service business, what it is to our bottom line. It’s important to really get that group of people as intimately involved all the way up to the senior levels of our company.”
David Meyer, CEO, Titan Machinery
To start building loyal customer relationships, dealerships have to recognize one size no longer fits all. Understanding unique operations and bringing value at a user-specific level is becoming more important than ever before. A good step in the right direction is beginning to view your customers as partners that you work with achieve common goals.
You already know that every customer who walks through your door is not going to be interested in the same equipment, nor would one piece of equipment be appropriate for all your customers needs. If you recognize this about your customer’s needs in matching a piece of equipment to fit each of their own personal needs, why would we assume that one customer service approach will fit them all the same?
Whether it’s a monitor error causing downtime during the peak of planting season or a yield file that needs to be cleaned up half way through a harvested field, dealerships understand the pressure to fix the problem effectively and efficiently. Any dealership knows downtime is time wasted, and time equals money. Casey Niemann, president of AgriSync, Inc. says dealerships need to “deliver the high-level of customer support and satisfaction their customers have come to expect.”
“We realized if you’re good at making the equipment work, farmers like buying it from you. And that really helped us drive sales because customers knew they could count on us to keep their equipment up and running.”
Adam Gittins, General Manager, HTS Ag
HTS Ag began their service plans in 2007. Once the plans were in motion, technicians quickly learned they could accomplish two very critical things.11 They could check customer’s displays and make sure the equipment was ready to go to the field, and they had the opportunity to give customers a quick training course since customers likely hadn’t looked at the display in 9 or 10 months.
Customers are increasingly demonstrating their willingness to engage in a relationship that’s more than transactional. Adding value to every engagement effectively advances the customer to the next phase in the purchase process. To get started on adding value to every engagement within your dealership it may be necessary to look at a the current perceptions of customers.
This added value could be in the form of content such as product information or pro-active communication such as broadcasts to help calibrate a combine before harvest. A remote support tool can help to simplify this workflow and add real value to customers, increasing both productivity and efficiency.
“Teaching customers how to troubleshoot empowers them and gives them more confidence in your service.”
Cody Searle Precision Farming Manager Agri-Service, LLC
If a customer doesn’t hold the confidence in the product you sold them, it can create lost time, and losing time during harvest or planting can be detrimental to any operation. Treating customers like they are truly valued can be the driving force to increased sales.
“To build up customer respect, you need to treat them like employees, and soon the sales will come.”
Adam Fennig, Product Specialist, Fennig Equipment
If your employee was having a problem with troubleshooting a software that is necessary for them to be successful at work, you would not just stop and fix the problem for them, without telling them what you did. No, instead you would walk your employee through on how to fix the problem in case it would happen again. This should not be any different if a customer is having a problem. Let your customers know they are capable of fixing their own problems with only the assistance from you via a video call, no matter how many miles away.
Customers are buying more than a piece of equipment, they are buying an experience. Customers always have expectations, around both the product performance and the experience they will have, when they make a purchase. It’s up to your dealership to exceed these expectations. While ideal to strive for 100% customer satisfaction, it’s not realistic to expect it. Some customers may have unrealistic expectations, some products may fail, or you may have unexpected circumstances affect your dealership’s performance.
Spending time adjusting your support strategy and adding new technologies to your support tool box shows your farmer customers that their operation is a valued part of your dealership.
"We need that dealer support. Our precision technician isn’t a planter or strip-till expert, he’s not a combine expert and he’s not a data expert. But he understands the entire ball of wax and can come up with a solution for the system, compared to somebody who’s more or less trying to sell the equipment the support is just a piece that goes with it.”
Jeff Reints, Farmer, Shell Rock, Iowa
Using technology to gather important and useful information that can help assist you in a better customer experience are mutually beneficial to dealerships and their farmer customers. Even though there still may be some dealerships dragging their feet at the opportunity to incorporate technology into their customer service, customer experience leaders are welcoming it into their regimen.
Looking at what information you currently have to help you begin to make improvements to your customer experience is a good way to start.
Allowing managers to keep an eye on open tickets, closed issues, and customer reviews can help to provide information to optimize support strategies and can lead to a successful customer service plan.
“Our team uses technology to give our customers a better support experience while managing a high support volume more effectively and efficiently.”
Mike Houghtaling, President, P&C Ag Solutions
Dealerships that recognize customer experience is critical to their growth and competitive differentiation are seeing higher-than-average revenue expansion. Organizations must get their customer experience right, or somebody else will. Due to this awareness, 90% of dealership executives intend to maintain or increase spending on customer experience, and 89% of executives expected customer experience to be their primary mode of competition by the end of 2016.
To evaluate the state of your current customer experience, first ask yourself these five questions:
Businesses in various industries, and all over the world are beginning to harness their power of good customer experience. Agribusinesses, specifically dealerships, should prioritize these strategies to improve their customer experience:
It’s hard to give customers a great experience when you can’t quickly adapt to their needs, respond to their questions, or when you force them to wait longer than they anticipate or to repeat information they expect you to already know.
To engage with your customers in real time, your customer support team needs tools that empower them to deliver the kind of top-notch customer service that builds relationships and positively impacts your business.
Agriculture advisors are using AgriSync for mobile collaboration and customer support in agriculture to drive profitability, create a know before you go strategy and leverage the dealership’s expertise. Advisors can easily see, solve, and track support issues and proactively educate their customers in a mobile-first, video-first manner on any device.
AgriSync is the first pro-active remote support app for modern agriculture and is always free for farmers. Get started with a free trial.