How iPads Are Transforming Customer Service At Dow AgroSciences
Mobile technology is changing behavior throughout agriculture. That’s why most ag professionals can’t start their day unless they have their smartphone or tablet with them. It’s become part of their DNA.
And this mobile transformation is happening throughout the food supply chain, from production and processing to distribution and consumption. Consider nearly 80% of ag retailers are now using tablets for work and/or plan to use one soon, according to a recent CropLife Media Group survey. Everyone is relying — some might argue too heavily — on this technology for on-the-go information, communication and functionality.
One shining example of this is occurring at Dow AgroSciences (DAS), where mobile technology has changed the way the company’s sales force interacts with customers. I recently caught up with Tiffany Galloway, DAS Implementation Leader — METT, who shared some insight into how the iPad and mobile apps have enhanced customer service with retailers and growers.
Q. Tell me about your role as Implementation Leader – METT.
A. METT stands for Marketing Excellence Through Technology. My role makes up not only the training/implementation of iPad materials to the commercial sales force, but it also acts as the liaison between the different businesses and the App Development Team. As part of this, I serve as the focal point in regards to mobile strategy with our marketers, creative agencies and sales team. I also help collaborate with our channel partners to help educate their sales force on how to best utilize iPads/tablets to support and provide additional value to their respective customers and businesses. Over the past year, we have received hundreds of requests to provide in-person consulting for best practices, using third-party apps and effective selling with the iPad.
Q. When did DAS begin using iPads for their sales team? Were they phased in over time or implemented all at once?
A. The project itself was a vision of our North American Vice President, Stan Howell, and his leadership team. In 2012, we successfully launched more than 700 iPads to our commercial organization over a 6-month period. The launch of the devices, custom apps and training materials were structured around our national sales meetings, and was very well received. We were the first business within DAS to release a tablet technology platform and have since paved the way in mobile optimization for other groups within our parent company, Dow Chemical.
Q. What can you tell us about the strategy behind making mobile a priority for the sales team?
A. Over the past few years we have seen a tremendous adoption of mobile technology in all aspects of our lives. A number of our innovative sales representatives were incorporating their own personal iPads in the way that they interacted with their customers and were experiencing tremendous success. This challenged us to think about how we could incorporate new technologies into our sales process. We feel that mobile technology for the sales force has been the greatest game changer in many years. Tablets allow our sales representatives to have access to resources during sales calls, provide quicker response time and improve time management.
As an additional benefit, our customers have mentioned that the use of these devices enhances the professionalism of our sales team. With exciting new technologies coming out of our R&D labs and being introduced into the marketplace, it is important that we educate our customers about these products. We have found that using iPads and mobile technology as training modules for our customers is another one of our innovative solutions that provide value to our customers’ business.
Q. How important has it been to establish a mobile culture among your sales team?
A. Culture is what we pride ourselves on, and DAS has always been known by our customers for its collaborative culture and ease of doing business. We have found that mobile technology further enhances this culture and ethos both internally and with our customers. Technology progresses rapidly, which has provided us with a window to demonstrate technology leadership.
Q. How has the iPad changed the way your sales team interacts with customers?
A. The sleek and easy design of the iPads along with the ability to access information no matter where you are gives our employees the advantage in comparison to the competition and gives them an added professional look. The iPad technology also allows our sales representatives to spend more time selling, provides them quick turnaround/responsiveness and allows for impactful, data-driven conversations. The ability of the iPad to provide collaborative information from across different businesses within DAS, has given our sales representatives the tools needed to discuss whole farm solutions with our customers.
Q. Initially, was there any push back from the team on using this technology? What was the biggest challenge on the iPad implementation?
A. Change always has its own challenges, but our sales team has been used to different adoptions in technology. From the bag phone and pager, to the Blackberry and now the iPhone/iPad, our sales force has been using technology to successfully convey the message of DAS superior products. Agriculture is one of the leaders in technology innovations, and our reps understand in order to have a leg up in the field, they need to be willing to adapt to changes in technology as well. The biggest challenge we saw was for those who never had experience with the Apple interface, and just helping them understand how to navigate their devices.
Q. Why iPads? Were there any other mobile devices considered for the implementation?
A. When we launched in 2012, Apple was the clear leader in the marketplace with Android being highly fragmented. Apple has a very strong following and with good reason. They provide the best user experience and have the most mature app ecosystem, providing our reps access to information in the field. As the tablet platform continues to advance, we will continue to evaluate what device provides our sales representatives and our customers with the greatest value.
Q. Tell me about the mobile apps your sales team are using in the field.
A. “There is an app for that” is a phrase that is so widely used in today’s world because it is true. There is an app for almost anything you can think of out there. As implementation leaders, we try to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to other third-party apps that are out there that we can leverage within our sales organization without having to “create the wheel” on our own. There are many extension/university apps for weed, pest and disease identification that are great tools for our sales reps to use, along with note taking and annotation apps that we can use for advancing data-driven conversations with our customers. Collaborations with other vendors such as AgData has helped us become the first trait provider to work with them on the AgCelerate Stewardship app, which allows our customers to stay ahead of their trait compliance.
DAS has also developed several internal apps for our sales force. Bulk Site Checklist allows reps to survey bulk tanks as they are changing chemistries and conduct in-person, electronic sign offs. Mycogen Value Calculator allows direct crop planning and order intentions with the sales rep and/or retailer. Mycogen Portfolio Select enables retailers, agronomists and Mycogen sales reps to create interactive slide decks to have one-on-one or group meetings with customers. The First to Farm app helps plan for early-season orders based on the previous year’s purchases.
Q. Was there a learning curve for the sales team regarding app use?
A. With any other new launch there is a bell curve featuring early adopters, those who will take time to experiment with the technology, and those who need some more hands-on training. Our group tries to provide as much training resources as possible via Webinars and in-person sessions so our sales force can focus on closing additional business, rather than being bogged down by technological hardships.
Q. How do you think the retailer relationship has changed as a result of using mobile technology?
A. I believe it has strengthened our relationships with our retailers. They view DAS as a strategic partner that is providing additional value to their business. Furthermore, I believe they see us as the leaders in the mobile landscape, innovators and supporters of their businesses. With greater response time, hands-on training and the ability to have real-time information at their fingertips, we make it easier for our retailers to position our products to their customers.
Q. What’s next for DAS on the mobile technology front? Any new apps being developed?
A. With technology being so dynamic, we are constantly analyzing our app platform and assessing the needs of our sales force and customers. We look forward to continuing to innovate and contributing to agriculture’s adoption of mobile technologies.