The rapid rise of high-tech tools for agriculture can be a boon for productivity and precision management, provided you can make the stuff work. The ag tech industry is finding that those innovative tools need one more feature — human support.
“So, our team here provides support for FieldView customers,” says Juan Mayta, customer success manager, The Climate Corporation. “We have 25 people that are precision ag and digital ag experts, and our main job is to restore value quickly.”
That comment to “restore value” is key in the focus of this tech support center for Climate. Mayta explains that when a customer reaches out, tech support is working with either basic product assistance or some more in-depth problem that needs troubleshooting. And it’s part of something a little bigger.
“When we talk about technology being a standard in agriculture, we’re going through an industrial revolution,” says Megan McNamee, customer success specialist, Climate. “We’re not only helping the growers use the features and functions of our platforms, we’re providing one-on-one support to get them up to speed [with new technology].”
With all the coverage of ag technology, it might be easy to assume that most farmers are well down the road to adoption and use of the tools. Mayta explains that his support center is working with a wide range of customers with different levels of expertise in the technology. That means matching the support to specific farmer need.
Closer to the customer
“We learn quickly that farmers value on-farm support, so in the last year and a half, we’ve added Climate activation specialists [CAS] as another kind of FieldView support for farmers,” Mayta says.
If a farmer is challenged by the new tools, he or she can call the support center and request an on-farm visit by someone who can help train the farmer in the use of the new tools. Of course, the biggest challenge is connecting a rainbow of machine products to the system and capturing useful information.
“Connectivity is a very complex technology enabler,” Mayta says. “Not all farmers have one color of equipment. There are different GPS systems, different display monitors — and we have to ask those questions of our customers.”
He explains the company has a compatibility guide used to help customers get connected. That involves asking a lot of questions. “One differentiator for FieldView is that we are brand-agnostic, and we are 90% compatible with most brands using the FieldView drive,” he adds.
McNamee adds that the key to good customer support is to ask the right questions. “There are complexities from a support standpoint, both on the line and with the CAS. We want to make sure we’re asking the right questions to find out what the farmer is trying to accomplish, and help them navigate through all parts of ag technology,” she says.
She notes in her work with farmers that the aim is to look at every operation as its own story, and every field as an individual field. She sees that the “story” has a beginning, middle and end; and if the middle chunk is missing, the aim is to unlock those details in the operation for better management.
High-quality data, better decisions
Mayta notes that in this support work, the aim is to help the farmer use information gathered to optimize the efficiency of the operation, helping reduce fuel use and expand inputs. “To get there, you need to collect the data first — to digitize the farm,” he notes.
And when farmers digitize the farm using these tools, they find new ways to put tech to work that developers didn’t think of. For example, Mayta notes that farmers are using a feature in FieldView — scouting pins — to map tile intakes. Those are valuable map points when doing fieldwork to protect those intakes.
But all that digitization has little value if farmers don't take a few steps to ensure what’s collected is high-quality data.
“We have a big focus on data quality. It has to be good data,” Mayta says. And that means taking a few steps in the beginning to make sure what you collect will have value for the future.
The start is the field boundary, which Mayta says has to be consistent across all platforms you use. The next step is to accurately record the inputs used with proper and consistent labeling. For example, a couple years ago, Climate implemented a seed nomenclature system to prepopulate seed names into the system for consistent naming on-farm. And this is not just Bayer brands; the system includes all hybrid and seed varieties from suppliers. “You want to use the right labels and hybrid names, and we prepopulate that for the farmer,” he says.
McNamee adds that with the customer success team support, they’ve learned that farmers often have the pieces of data they need, yet there’s an education process about that data quality concept. “They understand the value of quality data; we want to support them and show them how valuable it is to have more clicks [of the mouse] now, to save clicks later,” she says.
Adds Mayta: “The more work the farmer can do upfront with the right labels and the right input names — and it seems basic — the more efficiencies they will get.”
McNamee comments that whenever someone calls a customer support operation, it can be a gamble. “When we have growers calling in, they’re doing a million different things at the same time, and they’re on the border of having a great day or a bad day,” she says. “How that turns out hinges on whether we can resolve their issue, and go about moving on to ask further questions and create those teaching moments about the technology. That’s the spirit of our support and our level of service.”
And one other note: The customer support for Climate FieldView users is free. Customers can access the support by calling 888-924-7474 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The operation even has a live chat function over the internet that customers can access.
Deploying ag tech effectively will become more important as farmers strive for higher efficiency. A little help to get that done can make a difference.