Farm equipment dealers, like most computer software and hardware users, use only a small portion of the features built into the systems they work with every day. Studies show users utilize only about 30% of the available features in many systems — at the top of the range — and as little as 10% of the built-in features are exploited by any one user. This low utilization rate is the same whether it’s a dealer business system (DBS) or a general computer application like Microsoft Word.


In most business settings, employees tend to focus on getting their work done — daily business transactions in the case of a DBS — and don’t use the management, marketing or communications capabilities that are part of the software. These features, if used effectively, can save time and money and help you grow your business — without making any additional investments.

For example, many dealerships use email to communicate, even within a dealership. Most DBS have an internal messaging system for communication that is easy to use, saves time and is not used enough.

This situation is the same when a farmer buys a tractor or other machinery with features that he doesn’t use (or know about). Once he discovers the capability, he becomes more productive with the same machine.

Just as with proper operator instruction on a new farm machine, there is a direct relationship between training and utilization. The more you learn, the more productive you’ll be.

Why DBS is Underutilized

Reason #1: Users get in a rut. They do the same things the same way because they just need to get their daily work done or because they don’t know any other way.

Humans are creatures of habit. Once we learn how to do something, most of us keep doing it the same way, unless we are forced to change or are shown a better way.

Reason #2: Business requirements change. What may not have been needed yesterday is required today. Very often, as business needs evolve, dealers ask for features that are already a part of the system. One business system developer estimates that 25% of user requests for new features are already built into their current system.

An example of changing requirements is the trend to mobile applications. All suppliers are adding or have built in the capability for sales, parts, service and precision farming specialists to interact with your DBS remotely using smart phones, laptops or tablets.

Reason #3: Systems evolve. In many cases, DBS suppliers have added features that their customers don’t know about or understand how to use them. Communication requires both a transmitter and a receiver. It also requires notice that the receiver actually received and understood the message. Communicating about system changes or enhancements is the responsibility of the DBS vendor and of the dealer user.

Most DBS suppliers provide notice of their updates regularly and offer webinars or seminars to demonstrate the new features.

Productivity Enhancements

Action #1: Don’t wait or hesitate to contact your DBS vendor and tell them that you want/need to improve your productivity. They all offer training, whether face-to-face or online, so your people don’t have to travel. Your DBS provider can assess your usage and show you how to get more productivity out of your investment.

Some offer ongoing monthly or quarterly classes to address your needs. For example, if you have high surplus or aged parts problems you may need several reports to analyze your situation. Or at year-end, dealerships often need special reports for tax reporting. The regular classes provide the opportunity to learn about seldom-used features.

Action #2: Challenge your team to move to the next level. In most businesses that use business software, a change in usage is prompted during times of rising business pressure to get more work done more easily and quickly. With the seasonal cycles of a farm equipment dealership, challenge employees to discover new system features during the off-season. Make it a point to have them show you what they found.

A part of your challenge should be to change the process of how things are done. To get out of a rut, one often has to build a new road; create a new process that better utilizes the features in your DBS. Those features are there because other dealers use them. It’s very likely you can utilize them too.

Think about creating a learning environment within your dealership that encourages and rewards your people for trying new ways of doing things. Make it OK for them to schedule, say, 30 minutes a quarter of free, online training with you DBS vendor.

Challenge yourself to use one of the most underutilized features of your DBS — to market more products or services. Most systems allow you to generate a list of customers who have purchased wholegoods from the dealership, but who don’t buy parts or service (or vice versa). This information can be used to market to specific customers with specific offers, and thus grow your business.

Action #3: Designate a “Champion.” Identify someone in the dealership who is a “power user” of your DBS and who can serve as a resource for others even if they’re in a different department. Champions are people who like to try new things.

This person might be the main contact with the DBS supplier, attend training conferences and then return with the objective to “spread the word.” They would be the person to go to with questions about your DBS.

One thing they can also do is to schedule their DBS trainer to come in every other year and do a touch up training for existing people and also to train new hires or people in different jobs. The “pass it on” training from existing staff to new staff misses a lot of things the DBS staff would include.

What’s the Payback?

What is the payback following up on these suggestions?

Our rule of thumb, based on years of experience with dealers, is any training will have a minimum 10-to-1 payback. Think of the 30 minutes per quarter of training time for your DBS users mentioned above. That’s 10 minutes per month of investment, which should be rewarded in 100 minutes of increased productivity. With 20 working days in a month, that’s only five minutes per day to invest in training.

Five minutes of higher productivity is VERY easy to do if you’ll do the things suggested here. In addition, increased utilization can result in fewer errors and/or better customer service. You’ve already invested in the DBS tools to improve your business. Let them make you more money!