Butler Ag Equipment

Lynn Daniel, CEO, The Daniel Group, interviews Jodi Phillips, Marketing Manager, Butler Ag Equipment. They discuss how Butler “realized years ago it isn’t just about the scores in those surveys, it’s about how we’re treating customers. And that obviously affects every piece and portion of our business. So, over the last few years, customer experience has taken more of a front seat with Butler. ”


Lynn Daniel (00:00):

Good morning. I’m here today with Jodi Phillips. Jodi, welcome. Thank you so much.

Jodi Phillips (00:14):

Thanks for having me.

Lynn Daniel (00:15):

Jody is at Butler Ag. And tell us a little bit about Butler and about what you’re doing.

Jodi Phillips (00:22):

So Butler, most people would be more familiar with Butler as the construction dealer in the Dakotas, but we also have a large presence in ag with our business on the AGCO side, across the Dakotas. And then that ag business also covers most of Nebraska. We have four locations in Nebraska, servicing that area, and have been there for a number of years now. So that side of our business is extremely important.

Lynn Daniel (00:59):

And you are the marketing manager for both sides of the business?

Jodi Phillips (01:03):

Yes, we have one marketing team and our marketing team covers both sides, construction and ag for Butler and Butler Ag Equipment.

Lynn Daniel (01:11):

Okay, great. Butler’s a client of ours since 2011. So thank you a lot. You’ve been serving on the ag side for a while, and you’ve recently increased your efforts there. What prompted you to do that? What caused you to want to get more feedback from your customers?

Jodi Phillips (01:36):

So, as I had mentioned, being the Caterpillar dealer in the Dakotas, we have been serving for years. And we realized years ago it isn’t just about the scores in those surveys, it’s about how we’re treating customers. And that obviously affects every piece and portion of our business. So, over the last few years, customer experience has taken more of a front seat with Butler. It is on our monthly scorecard. We talk about it. It’s starting to be ingrained more in our culture, our leadership buy-in. So when we started looking and continually examining how our loyalty scores look on the Caterpillar side, we realized that as we start talking and improving those efforts, that we were leaving out an entire side of our organization. So if you think about whether it’s our customers probably feeling that on the backend, or our employees themselves, knowing that we were taking a hard look at what these scores are doing but not focusing on the ag side of the business, we really just decided that it’s about the whole organization, not about one side.

Lynn Daniel (03:00):

Okay. So that prompted you to increase your efforts there. Okay.

Jodi Phillips (03:00):


Lynn Daniel (03:02):

What are some of the most important things you’ve learned about how to improve CX for farmers?

Jodi Phillips (03:10):

So I think really what we are seeing happening is that with our overall company focus on the healthy side of our organization, when you look at customer experience, it’s about feelings, it’s about emotions and it’s about feelings, not about scores. So while those feelings drive those scores, both sides of our industry, feelings and what people used to refer to as fluffy, weren’t necessarily talked about openly. So when we started getting a heavier focus on that as an organization with our employees and knowing that our customers’ emotions drive, that that is one of the things that on the ag side of the business, anyone who knows farmers or who grew up around farmers, are amazingly emotional, like everyone else, emotional people they are. And that emotion drives their business day in and day out. If they’re down, it is their family livelihood on the line. And whether it’s a pandemic or whether it’s just bad weather or a machine breaking down. And so us looking at that from that standpoint and realizing that it’s not just talking about the scores with these guys, just looking at knowing every time that you have an interaction with one of our customers, whatever emotion they are feeling at that time is going to affect how they evaluate as a business. So you have to keep that in mind.

Lynn Daniel (04:59):

How have you been able to get your organization around this notion of emotion? Because people tend to focus on the rational satisfaction way too much. Well, sometimes not enough, and most times they ignore the emotional part of the equation. So how have you been able to get the organization to pay a little more attention to that emotional side?

Jodi Phillips (05:25):

So again, I think it goes back to our leadership and our organization, with that stronger focus on that healthy side of our business. What is happening naturally with that is that when we talk about how we treat each other and how we treat our customers, and we’re talking about… Let’s take it to an example of looking at our scorecard on a monthly basis. If that’s sitting front and center to you, you might have an employee who’s looking at it going, “Well, I work in this area, I work in finance, and I’m not directly talking to customers every day. So those are parts and service transactions so I probably can’t have an effect on that score.” So the messages we’re trying to give those associates is that you do impact that score, everything you do impacts that score.

Jodi Phillips (06:13):

So while we may be working with your group to survey that customer on a transaction that happened at our parts and service area of our business, that customer may have had an interaction with our finance department directly or indirectly that has now given them an emotional perception of how they’re doing business with us, hard, easy. So by making those connections with those teams and saying that interaction with the customer now has affected how they feel about the business, now they’ve received a survey from the Daniels group on behalf of Butler, they may have that in the back of their head and it may affect how they perceive us and give us a score.

Lynn Daniel (06:56):

Fantastic. That’s sort of hard to do when you talk to the people that are not directly customer facing sometimes. But they do have a real impact. That invoice is not clear, if it’s not timely, if they didn’t get treated right when someone called in to question it, it has a problem. Thinking about more about what’s going on, what two or three changes have you made as a result of some of this feedback in your ag operation?

Jodi Phillips (07:30):

So I think probably some of the biggest changes we’re having are not small operational changes, but overall company-wide just how we talk about it and how front and center it is to our organization. So on the level of the company score card, what we do then is that filters down. And we’ve had a dashboard for a while that our teams can look at. And we have that split out by store. It’s transparent for our stores so they can see what’s going on with those trends. But working with you guys, I think something else that was brought front and center were adding in the reasons behind why people have a hard time doing business with us, whether it’s communication or invoicing, those different things. And so by having our stores be able to look at that information and dig deep into the why behind it versus just a number, it gives anyone looking at it a better understanding of the customer’s feelings at that time. So that’s been one thing.

Jodi Phillips (08:56):

Continued evaluation, you know, as well as I do that it’s a journey, it’s a forever journey, right? And the world is changing and our customers change and business changes on a dime. So we evaluate our introduction to the customer. We’ve done that. We evaluate what we have out in front of our customers at the store, for example, a postcard that asks them for feedback. We make simple changes to that occasionally. We’ve changed timing. I think an important thing is we adjust timing on those surveys if we need to. The pandemic as a perfect example of that. We’re sensitive to the customer’s needs. We don’t want it to be a set it and forget it. So I think all of those things, they stay front and center and communication is key, internal and external. So as long as we keep it front and center, just talking about it and knowing that we continually-

Lynn Daniel (09:59):

That regular, monthly, more frequent, repeating so it keeps that notion of CX clearly on people’s minds.

Jodi Phillips (10:08):

Yes. Even two, three years ago, customer experience was important. It’s very important, it’s always been important. But I think you’ve maybe seen it with other clients where the realization that it isn’t just about what used to be called customer service. It’s every day. It’s as hard as any relationship you have in your life. You have to be dedicated to it. And we have the amazing leadership group right now that takes our mission and our vision, and we are in the middle of that cultural transformation that we are living it and breathing it. And values in action every day, be the best you can be. And that’s going to drive transactional scores more than any tiny little tweak that you can make in a question or a phone call or a… Those things are going to help us, but keeping an eye on those things together, I think we’re going to see those trends this year just go up naturally, because people are thinking about it all the time.

Lynn Daniel (11:29):

Last question. You’ve already, I think, mentioned two essential lessons. One is the issue around the importance of the emotional side of the equation. And the second thing you’ve talked several times about is the importance of senior level engagement and leadership around this whole thing. Are there any other lessons that are takeaways for you and the other managers at Butler about what you’ve learned over the last three years?

Jodi Phillips (12:01):

I think the biggest lesson is around communication. I think communication internally, amongst ourselves in understanding our roles, and then knowing that you can never make assumptions of how somebody is feeling. So we talk about over-communicating. At the corporate level, working with our stores, and then knowing that our customers, if they’re down, we should never make an assumption that just because we sent them the right part on time, that they’re completely satisfied. Over communicate, follow up, kind of the before, during, and after. And so in this next year, I think that is going to become even more front and center is how we communicate with our customers, right time, right place, knowing that we need to be there for them and not assuming that if they need us, they’re going to reach out. We need to know when they need us and we need to go to them.

Lynn Daniel (13:10):

Thank you. This has been fascinating. I really do appreciate your time and certainly your observations. And I think there are a lot of takeaways here that many of our other clients can learn from. So again, thanks a lot, Jodi. I really appreciate it.

Jodi Phillips (13:28):

Thank you.



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