The Future Face of Service

Summer 2018

Farmers have long relied on trusted service providers to advise them on equipment, crop inputs, accounting, and more. The concept of “great service” is intertwined with the familiar face of an agronomist or local tractor dealer, a warm handshake, and a conversation in the field or across a desk. While the need for trustworthy service isn’t going anywhere, The Context Network predicts a ground-shifting change in the character of service that farmers will expect in the future.

During the next 10-25 years, technological advancements in precision agriculture, coupled with disruptive entrants in the market, will dramatically redefine the service-based ag economy. While relationships will remain a critical aspect of service, they won’t hinge upon any particular individual. Rather, service will center on precision ag platforms that help deliver insights. The Context Network Principal Doug Griffin says, “The most valued service providers will be those who can interpret a grower’s data and make smart recommendations with the profitability of a farmer’s entire enterprise in mind.”

Based on recent conversations with industry experts, Griffin recognizes big opportunities—and potential blind spots—for the ag equipment sector in this future service landscape. He observes, “Equipment dealers and manufacturers have a head start with precision ag tools that collect valuable data, so the equipment channel is well positioned to deepen advisory relationships by helping farmers understand their data and creating complete solutions that boost farmers’ efficiency and profitability.”    

However, dealers and manufacturers who rest on their laurels could find themselves displaced by new entrants with a price-first/service-second offer. As ag equipment become smaller, autonomous, and more interoperable, web-based equipment sales are truly viable, which opens the door for new purchasing venues. Griffin says, “The equipment market isn’t immune to direct retailer or virtual retailer concepts we’ve seen gain traction in the crop input and ag retail market. To remain relevant, equipment dealers and OEMs need to develop differentiated services that are less about selling equipment and more about creating equipment-based solutions to growers’ problems.”

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For example, instead of the traditional model in which a farmer owns his own equipment, the farmer of the future might prefer to pay an annual fee that ensures timely access to adequate horsepower to farm “x” number of acres and perform “y” operations. In the model of the future, equipment services providers will “prescribe” equipment fleets that are seasonally timely and impeccably matched to the needs of a farmer’s operation.

Griffin says this change is already underway as farmers seek to minimize the uncertainty and risk of owning and maintaining increasingly expensive and technologically complex equipment. He says, “Farmers absolutely want the capabilities the latest equipment provides, but they don’t necessarily want that asset on their balance sheet. They’re already shifting the financial risk of owning equipment up the channel to dealers and manufacturers through leasing models and maintenance agreements.” In the future, complete equipment solutions are likely to emerge that supplant traditional leasing, financing and ownership models. This will have a significant impact on equipment manufacturers and dealers as capital requirements change and profit realization shifts.

With these changes in the marketplace, the equipment channel has an opportunity to secure its place as “trusted advisor” role by delivering complete solutions and services, rather than merely products. The Context Network has many years of experience in helping agriculture equipment organizations identify future trends and develop strategies for succeeding in changing environments. Through our deep business knowledge and broad network of growers, dealers, manufacturers and other experts, we can help anticipate and plan for long-term market opportunities.


For more information, contact Doug Griffin at doug.griffin@contextnet.com.