By Dave Christiansen, President and CEO
How to enhance the overall customer experience is one initiative that continues to rise to the top in our strategic planning sessions now held twice a year. Initially, the challenge with an initiative like this was creating a clear definition that would be actionable. First it meant we needed to make certain our company was easy for our customers to do business with. Secondly, when the customer did do business with us, they would be left with the feeling they selected the right partner.
One of the challenges to executing an initiative like this is we have to be willing to challenge virtually everything we are doing today, regardless of how well we think we are doing. We must go to our customers and ask the terrifying question, “How well are we doing?” Only then, and only if we really listen, can we get the information that will lead us to start making the changes customers say will set us apart from everyone else who is wanting their business.
I would like to take this opportunity to once again say “thank you” to our customers. Many of you have shared information with us and, by listening, our employees have continued to raise the bar for our industry. The following are a few examples of what we do today that came about simply by listening to you.
When I think about making it easier to do business with MKC, I first think about our efforts to bring the business to you rather than you coming to us. Today we have over 40 knowledgeable people in the country meeting with you at your farm gate. This number doesn’t include the people who play a vital support role in delivering or applying the products that make your jobs easier. These are only the people delivering the expertise necessary to help you make decisions to maximize your profit on the farm. We certainly have experts strategically placed at our many locations but for those producers who don’t have time to visit our locations, we can deliver the expertise to you.
One area we have significant expertise is in forward contracting grain. (Just the mention of it can be intimidating!) Over the years we’ve continued to add contracts allowing our customers to fit them to their specific strategies and risk tolerance level. Today we offer 28 different contracts specifically designed to make it easy to meet your needs and offer you the flexibility you are looking for. We offer the same opportunities in our agronomy and energy departments. Forward contracting all or most of your inputs at the same time is well advised when your intent is to manage risk and lock in profits.
These programs are exactly what led us to having a very robust input financing program with an interest rate currently at 2.45 percent. By having access to credit faculties that allow you to contract inputs 12 months out is beneficial for many reasons. While the primary benefit is the ease of doing business with MKC, the input finance program also allows you to take advantage of opportunities that come available throughout the year.
Another example of ease of doing business with MKC is our customer online portal, providing you access to all of your grain or input activity 24 hours a day. You can search for specific grain tickets, do proof of yields and investigate current balances. Online offers continue to gain popularity with grain customers who are looking to capture more profit when available. You can export data from your customer portal to an Excel spreadsheet to create an analysis of your farm’s inputs for the past year. Direct deposits of grain settlements and the ability to pay your bill online are other examples of what we offer to make it easy to do business with us. These examples are a direct result of listening to our customers and responding to their needs.
All of our facility and equipment investments made over the past number of years were driven by our desire to improve the speed of our service and again, improve your customer experience. These investments include dual scales and increased leg speed, reducing your wait time at our facilities and matching the speed of your harvesting equipment. The larger application and delivery equipment utilizing precision technology allow us to get jobs done on a timelier basis and with improved accuracy. Our investment in seed treatment plants has proven to gain much improved seedling vigor to get your crops off to the right start. Our mapping and precision ag services provide you the guidance to place the right amount of the right products, in exactly the right spot to minimize your input usage and expense while maximizing your production per acre.
The utilization of technology to improve the overall customer experience continues to be a driver for us. It started with the customer portal and led to text messages with grain market updates three times a day. Again, by listening to our customers we recently introduced a service that notifies you when our application rig driver finishes your job and leaves your field. Many customers had stated how nice it would be to know this information and I am proud our people developed a solution to your request.
While we take our planning process very seriously, we take execution of our plan even more seriously. By listening to our customers and staying in tune with the advancements in technology, we can maintain our efforts to make MKC a company that is easy to do business with. Our intent, as stated earlier, is to continue to enhance your overall customer experience.
We hope we are hitting the mark for you and when we don’t, please make certain you let us know how we can raise the bar. I also expect you to continue to hear us ask, “How are we doing?”