A Call to Perfect the Customer Experience

- Jason Kaeb

According to Disney’s business management philosophy, the “customer is always right.” So if Max from Illinois wants 300 units of seed variety X treated with treatment recipe A, 600 units of seed variety Y treated with treatment recipe B, and another 600 units of seed variety Z with no treatment, then that’s what Max should get. However, we all know it’s not that easy, especially as your customer base scales up and your seed inventory diversifies.

The more flexible a retailer or dealer is, the harder it is for them to pretreat seed and manage the logistics. That’s why we often see companies offer two or three treatment options across a few varieties; this allows them to pretreat the seed in February and deliver the seed to their customers before they even hit the field.

Pretreating also takes the pressure off of treating on the spot, and minimizes the effect of any breakdowns, so that growers aren’t waiting on you. Furthermore, if something does breakdown, it’s not quite the crisis.

From the perspective of a grower, pretreating and packaging gives him or her peace of mind knowing that their seed is on site and ready to go. Depending on your customer, peace of mind can go a long way. But for some growers, it’s not enough.

They want — need — flexibility to put the best crop in the ground and be the most profitable. By offering a real-time treatment option, you can help your customer better manage input costs.

We all know that the only thing that doesn’t change is change, and everyone is at the mercy of the weather. So if we’ve had a wet start to the planting season and Max hasn’t been able to get into the field as early as he would have liked, he might opt to forego a certain treatment option on his June-planted soybeans.

Giving customers the flexibility to make decisions real-time can take your business to the next level, but getting the proper infrastructure in place is essential — there’s the equipment and capacity, labor, customer tracking and delivery, just to name a few.

What benefits the customer can also benefit you. With real-time treating, you don’t have to handle and maneuver product around the warehouse as much, as you’re treating directly into a tender or truck to be delivered to the field.

Or, have you ever gotten through June and been walking through your warehouse only to find a couple boxes or even a bin that still has treated seed in it. By treating to meet real-time needs, you eliminate the obstacles of disposing leftover treated seed, for both you and your customers.

If you’re ready to consider offering a real-time treatment service to your customers, there are a few keys to success. The first is making sure you have a bulk-handling site. If you don’t have a bulk site, you’re already making it harder on yourself.

I recognize this means a larger capital investment upfront – bulk storage, large conveyors, large hoppers and a larger treating capacity. Because you’ll be handling a large volume in a small amount of time, you need to look at systems that will treat at least 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of seed per minute. If you’re moving slower than that, you’ll end up being a bottleneck instead of a value-added service.

Back to Disney: One of Walt’s best lessons is “You don’t build it for yourself. You know what the people want, and you build it for them.” Is your operation built for your customer, or for you?

When you give farmers flexibility, then you are really adding value and setting yourself apart from the competition.

Remember: Whether your business model is built more around pre-treating or real-time treating, accuracy, accountability and safety with seed treatments and equipment should remain as a high priorities for your operation.