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Top Resources for Customer Experience in Agriculture

The Case for Improving Customer Experience in Agriculture

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?

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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

When customers expectations are exceeded, your bottom line benefits, too.

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.

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This white paper explores five questions to evaluate your current customer experience and six strategies to improve your customers’ experiences and your bottom line.  

Evaluate Your Customer Experience

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:

1. How do your customers currently solve their problems?

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.

2. What questions do you hear repeatedly from customers?

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.

3. Where is my dealership on the “map” of customer choice and dealership differentiation?

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.

4. What constraints are keeping my team from delivering its best customer experience?

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.

5. What new technologies can I use to build a more proactive, customer-centric experience?

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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.

checklist-agrisyncStrategies to Improve Customer Experience

01 - Reduce Friction with Technology

Using technology effectively can begin to remove pain points when dealerships are working with customers.

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.

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:

  • Where do we hear the most questions?
  • Where do customers have the most difficulty?

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

02 - Prioritize Customer Retention

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.

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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:

  • Where are customers dropping out of the sales funnel?
  • How can we optimize the experience to remove this pain point and retain customers?
  • How can we build long term loyal customers?

Leading dealerships who recognize the importance of growing loyal customer relationships are placing more weight on customer retention rather than prospecting.

“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

03 - Adopt Customer-Centric Initiatives

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.

  • What makes each of your customers unique?
  • Identify your customer personas. What is their role on the farm?
  • What types of operations do they have?
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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?

Dealerships with successful customer service realize the importance of serving customers where they are.

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.

04 - Proactively Build Trusting Customer Relationships

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.

  • What do my customers currently think of me?
  • What do I want them to think of me?
  • How can I develop the relationship to stay top of mind?

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.

Connecting with farmer customers before they need your help is great way to begin building a stronger relationship with customers. Be proactive in getting them the information they need and the tools they need, before they are in a bind.

“Teaching customers how to troubleshoot empowers them and gives them more confidence in your service.”

Cody Searle Precision Farming Manager Agri-Service, LLC

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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.

05 - Revive Disgruntled Customers

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.

Turning less than satisfied customers into happy customers translates into customer loyalty and promotional value.

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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.

  • How do I demonstrate that I value and encourage feedback?
  • How do I act upon the feedback I receive to create positive change?
  • How can I leverage my most satisfied customers for promotional benefit in terms of referrals and renews?

"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

06 - Optimize Decisions with Technology

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.

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Looking at what information you currently have to help you begin to make improvements to your customer experience is a good way to start.

  • What metrics do I need to monitor to evaluate customer support?
  • What tools can I add to my toolbox to help me see how my support team is performing?

Giving your managers and company leadership more insight into day to day activity of the service team can be the first step in the right direction.

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

ROI on Customer Experience

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. 

roi-customer-experience-agrisyncWhat is your ROI on customer experience? Are your customers spending 140% more as a result of the experience you deliver? Is there room for improvement?

To evaluate the state of your current customer experience, first ask yourself these five questions:

  1. How do your customers currently solve their problems?
  2. What questions do you hear repeatedly from customers?
  3. Where is my dealership on the “map” of customer choice and dealership differentiation?
  4. What constraints are keeping my team from delivering its best customer experience?

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:

  1. Reduce Friction with Technology
  2. Prioritize Customer Retention 
  3. Adopt Customer-Centric Initiatives
  4. Proactively build trusting customer relationships.
  5. Revive Disgruntled Customers
  6. Optimize Decisions with Technology

AgriSync as a Customer Experience Tool

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.

 
 

With AgriSync, experts deliver better service to their farmer customers at a fraction of the cost while helping farmers maximize uptime and accelerate their adoption of essential innovations.

AgriSync is the first pro-active remote support app for modern agriculture and is always free for farmers. Get started with a free trial.

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