John Deere customers from across the country got a glimpse of how equipment is made, as well as a chance to ride some new products and talk about the current state of the industry. As part of customer fly-ins, contractors (as well as Lawn & Landscape) saw the soup to nuts process of how some of the company’s products are made at the Turf Care Factory near Raleigh, N.C. New and current products were on display outside the facility where the invitees had a chance to test drive the equipment – ZTRaks , mowers, construction worksite products, compact utility tractors and utility vehicles.
Invitees also participated in four round table discussions led by John Deere employees. The topics included:
Design/build/install: Landscapers had the chance to give feedback on what they look for in design/build equipment. Ability to handle attachments, high-beam lights and ease of maintenance were among the qualities mentioned. However, if a piece of equipment needs maintenance that a contractor can’t do himself, he wants to have a good relationship with his dealer for better service and overall comfort with the transaction.
Contractors also said they’ve lost both design/build and maintenance work to lower bids in the past couple of years, but are now seeing those companies go out of business and the customers calling to have their yards fixed.
Green industry overview/finance: Employees from John Deere Landscapes finance department had the chance to ask contractors if offering a financing plan would help them grow their business. Many contractors allow their customers to make payments for work, but the landscapers showed interest in having John Deere serve as the middle man – the contractor would be paid by Deere while the customer would make payments to Deere.
Leasing versus owning equipment was also discussed with the opinions being split on what was a better option. Some liked the idea of owning a product and using it as a back-up when it gets older, but some said they saved money by only paying off 70 percent of a leased piece of equipment and then trading it in for the newer model.
Landscape maintenance: A lot of contractors like to fix their own equipment if they can, but as commercial mowing equipment becomes more advanced, contractors have to rely more on dealers because the issues become more complex. Contractors are also a bit hesitant about buying brand new equipment because the kinks haven’t been worked out of it again.
When the topic of going green was brought up, most contractors said they weren’t being asked by customers about green services. Landscapers said propane has been mentioned at seminars they’ve attended, but have never had a request for it in the field.
Customer service and support: When it comes to customer service or support for a part or equipment, these contractors wanted availability and a fair price. As far as making repairs, again, the landscapers would like to make some repairs in-house, so having parts available is a must. A same as cash plan may entice them to stockpile more products, but it would depend on how many months the same as cash offer lasted.
The idea was also raised to have a mechanic from a dealer visit sites and train employees on how to fix certain parts of a machine. The repair manual can help, but it only gets the contractor so far. Contractors would also find it beneficial if they knew the dealer would visit their site and perform maintenance on a set time each year. It’s a service some would be willing to pay for, although they didn’t give a dollar amount on how much they’d spend.