Service runs deep through Vermeer dealers
Providing customers high-quality machinery and service: That’s the goal of every Vermeer dealer. With the company’s history of innovation in forage equipment, the Vermeer name underscores this two-pronged commitment to agricultural customers, and it’s come to be a hallmark of the yellow Vermeer forage equipment around rural America.
It can be challenging to balance all the components necessary to provide equipment and service to an ever-evolving customer group. It takes expertise, experience and drive to maintain service as a high priority. It’s a trio of traits which Vermeer values, from the earliest stages of product development to sales and customer service well after a machine leaves the dealer’s lot.
So how does it work for Vermeer? Certainly not without major effort and company-wide focus. But it all starts with a fundamental brand promise to provide the highest level of service, according to Vermeer Chair of the Board Mary Andringa. That promise is the foundation of customer service that runs through every sector of the company, as well as the men and women it serves. That promise is exemplified at the dealer level, as it has been for the last 70 years.
"I think the ideal Vermeer dealer is someone really knowledgeable about our products and who has the know-how to be able to help our customers be more productive. That’s part of our brand promise. - Mary Andringa"
“I think the ideal Vermeer dealer is someone really knowledgeable about our products and who has the know-how to be able to help our customers be more productive. That’s part of our brand promise,” Andringa said. “Certainly through the years, we’ve had agricultural dealers who have gone above and beyond what a typical dealer might do to take care of his or her customers.”
Bill King is one of those dealers. The Morgantown, West Virginia, native spent countless hours helping bale hay on his family’s operation and when the opportunity arose to attend a field day featuring a Vermeer 605B baler, he didn’t know it would eventually lead to decades of him being his area’s leading provider of Vermeer forage equipment.
“Our county agent got the local farmers together and we went to a field day where they had three balers. The farmer baled a full three- or four-acre (1.2- or 1.6 ha) field and got it in one bale with that 605B. I looked at that thing, thought, ‘My goodness,’ and I couldn’t imagine ever getting one,” said King, who today operates King & Sons, LLC with his family and a close team of service technicians in Morgantown. “The county agent said, ‘Somebody ought to get a franchise and sell those things,’ and my dad started writing Gary Vermeer a letter then.”
King was one of Gary Vermeer’s original dealers, providing sales and service to a large area of the eastern U.S. Today, King services customers in the northern portion of West Virginia. Upon meeting Gary Vermeer early on, he knew it would be a good fit after recognizing how strongly his family and the Vermeer family shared an ethic to provide the highest level of customer service.
“We had a great relationship with Gary. He and his wife came here to visit once during a tour of dealerships. He showed up in a little green rental car. He got out and had holes in the elbows of his sweater. I’ll never forget that. He was just like the hard-working farmer down the road,” King said. “He was low-key and didn’t go for all the accolades and stuff like that. When he told you something, you could bank on it.”
Large round balers immediately became a huge seller for the King family, and that kicked off a trend of major change for the area’s forage producers. “It transformed haymaking here. Once, dad ordered nine balers and had them all sold before they were manufactured. When the 504C baler came out, it was a perfect fit for these West Virginia hills, and we couldn’t get enough of them. They sold like hotcakes.”
But even if something sells that briskly, sustainable long-term success isn’t possible without the right service. King puts a priority on that customer service. As a farmer himself, he’s often in his customers’ shoes, so he knows the importance of good service well after a sale is made.
“I tell everybody when they buy a piece of machinery from me: I will take care of it and I will take care of them,” King said. “It has to be a good deal for both you and me. I do it because I love it. We haven’t ever changed our philosophy on service here. I’ve always thought if you don’t have good service for the products you sell, you don’t have a product, period.”
Bruce Johnson shares King’s drive to provide the best possible service after the sale. It’s the relationships he and fellow co-owner Jeff Gold have built with their customers at Ag-Plus Mechanical in Medicine Hat, Alberta, that he credits with the sustained success of the business.
“We’re not just selling serial numbers. We want long-term relationships. The reason service is so important for us is that we’re in the business of building relationships. Service and support are paramount to those relationships,” Johnson said. “We believe that service is more than a slogan. Our business was founded on the principle of strong customer relationships, and we feel that impeccable service is a mission statement and culture within the operation.”
Johnson provides service to customers in a 100-mile radius from the Ag-Plus headquarters. Because his dealership works with so many customers in such a large geography, Johnson works to be proactive about service in different ways.
“We have a branded post-season maintenance program and encourage customers to get their machinery to us whenever it’s convenient, usually during the offseason,” Johnson said. “We are always conscious of cost, both for us and our customers, and with a brand like Vermeer, we sell and service machinery with a brand integrity that’s second to none in the industry. That helps us cultivate relationships with our customers and it’s our responsibility as a dealer to follow through with strong service over the long term.”
To Johnson, a major part of providing the right customer service stems from his customers’ comfort level working with Ag-Plus. He goes to great lengths to satisfy his customers; it’s an effort that often revolves around strong two-way communication. He attributes a high number of repeat customers to his staff’s attention to customers’ communication preferences — which range widely today, with the myriad of ways to communicate. And it’s something he will continue to emphasize with his team well into the future, both as a service to the customer and to fulfill the Vermeer brand promise.
“There are some customers who don’t want to talk on the phone. They may want to text or see images if they’re visual learners. But in some cases, a brief phone conversation or face-to-face visit will go further. You have to be attuned to customer preferences on communication and accept them,” Johnson said. “If the customer is not comfortable with the communication he or she has with the dealership, you won’t get a second chance. People are looking for solutions and positive interactions, and with our customer service, that’s what we want to provide every time.”
Looking into the future, customer service will remain a high priority for Vermeer, at both the dealer and corporate levels. With preferences ever-changing, finding the right form of communication to provide the best customer service possible will remain a constant challenge. But just like when Andringa’s father bootstrapped his dealer network decades ago with dealers like King in West Virginia, the service ethic at Vermeer will always be strong.
“We have some great relationships with our agricultural dealers around North America, and I think we need to continue building on that,” Andringa said. “It’s really all about continuing to foster that culture of respect among dealers, the corporation and our customers, and one in which we have the highest levels of trust. That’s exactly the kind of culture we will continue to foster and sustain into the future.”
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