As part of our management approach, we always conduct a review of the treating season. We look at what went well, what needs improvement, evaluate customer feedback and identify trends. While this information is mostly used for internal purposes, we do share some of it with customers, and I thought it might be insightful for you, as well, especially when we look at trends.
Let’s start there. First, market competition continues to increase among suppliers. They’re not competing on price or cost but on quality and efficiency — that’s what the bulk of our customer base wants. It’s been trending this way for a couple years now, but it was even more evident this year.
This means an increase in automation being added to the systems to help streamline the treating process. Meanwhile, more and more dealers are offering to deliver seed directly to the field, as an added customer benefit.
Farmers are taking notice of these changes, too, as dealers and retailers up their professional services and showcase high quality treated seed. We’ve noticed farmers are commenting on the equipment being used to achieve these results. Five years ago, that understanding and recognition didn’t exist.
We also see an increasing number of customers make use of the data management software and reporting systems available. In the past, a report for each treatment batch would be printed; however, operators are running at breakneck speeds, leaving them no time to actually look at the reports. The paper reports would then be stacked by variety or recipe, and someone would have to go back and manually sift through what’s important. While the software helps eliminate stacks of paper, the benefits are much bigger.
While it might not be apparent at the time of treating, the data software and reporting system provides a huge relief this time of the year when they’re going back and reconciling what they did in March, April, May and June.
Previously, customers have primarily used it for billing but we are seeing more customers use it for reconciling seed and treatment sales, inventory management, and for in-season daily accuracy reporting to ensure the system is performing optimally.
Additionally, the on-screen remote support has become almost a necessity for us to provide the support and service that customers need. Nearly 95 percent of the calls we take can be resolved within 10 minutes using the on-screen remote support compared to having someone talk us through what’s happening and what they see. That’s been a huge benefit not only to our team internally but also to our customers.
The Nitty Gritty
Shifting to the details of the 2017 treating season, the mild winter we experienced throughout much of the Midwest was followed by an early spring. This meant the seed-treating season started early with few rainy days.
This was good for those who were prepared and ready, but is also a good reminder that every year starts a little different. It’s good to be prepared well before spring arrives, so when it does, you’re ready.
In some regions, we also saw late spring rains keep planters out of fields, which extended the treating season well in mid to late June.
For us all this meant heavy phone support right out of the gate, and it’s just as important for us as a service manufacturer, as it is for our customers, to be prepared for an early spring.
Like our customers, we don’t stop working at 6 p.m. or on weekends and holidays this time of the year. We’re working around the clock and logged thousands of calls this past spring that are tracked for future reference.
Remember: Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. No matter the season, it’s better to be prepared for an early season that comes fast and is condensed into just a few weeks and not get it, than to be caught off guard and unprepared.