Jason Pennycook, precision specialist, Johnson Tractor, Janesville, Wis., has had 3 years of precision service plan experience. Johnson Tractor offers a basic (phone support and training class) and a premium (also including onsite visit). Other individual packages include precision training on-farm, spring planter checkups and yield monitor checkups.
Make Training Required. In addition to the field services of the plan, training is also an important element of the service plans and includes one class in-store. It helps offset the cost of the dealership’s weeklong investment in classes (this year four — one at each location in the last week in February). “Anyone you can get into a class is one less phone call you’ll need to take in the middle of planting or harvest.” The dealership also invites the co-ops, particularly so their people know how files need to be set up to enter their prescriptions into the displays. “We don’t need any arguments in the spring when they try to get the data off the thumb drive and into the display — the farmer just wants it to work. By getting them involved as well, it helps in the spring and keeps everything more streamlined.”
Pricing. Noting that flat-rating the highly variable precision ag tasks is itself a challenge, Pennycook adds that few farmers would pay for the value of what it’s worth anyway. Yet Johnson Tractor’s pricing goal at the moment is to recoup enough to cover the cost of precision employees. “Our goal would be to sell enough service plans to be able to hire another tech. Because eventually, if you get enough service plans, you can’t support them. You need to find the way to increase revenue enough to get another employee.”
Automatic Enrollment in Service Plans. A 1-year service plan is attached to all new equipment that has any precision farming components on it. “New equipment will be your biggest service plan customer when you start,” he says, adding that they also attach the service plan on any new precision farming purchase. “People will ask about it, which is good. We want them to ask about the plan so they know what we offer and what we’re trying to accomplish for them.”
Phone Time Billing. Johnson Tractor tracks phone time in 15 minute increments, but Pennycook says the best solution for billing phone time is not to do it at all — rather, to force phone support through a larger package. At this point, Johnson Tractor hasn’t found a good system for billing phone time without going to a call center model.
Renewals. “The biggest thing is to get out there and get it sold, get them going in the spring and make sure everything’s right. If they have a good spring, everything goes well and you’ve been out there — they’ll come back. They can remember what it was like to have downtime. There’s nothing farmers hate more than when they go out, turn the key, go to plant, drop the planter in the ground and nothing works.”
Editor's Note: Precision Farming Dealer managing editor Jack Zemlicka rode along with Jason Pennycook for our sister publication's Day in the Cab series.