Listen and Learn

To make better machines, MacDon seeks input from the front line of dealer service.

“I always thought that they had really good product and pride in what they did, and this trip just confirmed all that.”

If you’ve been a regular reader of Performance Magazine you know how much MacDon depends on feedback from its customers to improve its products. But there is another source of feedback equally important to MacDon, and that is the service people who work with their products everyday. These people represent MacDon’s frontline contact with their machines, and few know better than them what’s working well on their machines and what needs improvement.

It is for that reason that MacDon recently invited service representatives from five of its larger dealerships in the United States and Canada to its head office in Winnipeg for a special “listen and learn” session with key people from across the company. The dealerships selected represented a cross-section of mainline and independent operations, so that MacDon could receive input from a number of different points of view.

“We created this forum so that we can hear from some of our top dealers what they are seeing out there regarding our equipment,” said Darren Fisher, Product Support Manager with MacDon.

Fisher said that the session was quite a bit different from the service technician training that MacDon conducts with its dealerships (last year alone more than 900 technicians from 269 North American dealerships took this training). While those training sessions do provide opportunity for feedback, they are not as focused on generating constructive feedback as this most recent listen and learn session was.

“This time we really wanted them to tell us what’s working for them, so that we maintain it, and what’s bothering them, so that we can fix it.”

To help accomplish this goal, the five attendees were provided with a number of formal and informal opportunities to have candid conversations with MacDon staff over their two day visit, including classroom sessions where some of MacDon’s senior leadership group were in attendance. 

One of the dealer representatives that attended the listen and learn was Lane Forbes, a Shop Foreman with Redhead Equipment in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. He says that he was impressed by both the quality of the discussion and by who was in the room to hear what he had to say.

“They opened up the floor for us to voice any or all concerns, everything from parts and warranty to service issues,” said Forbes. “Everybody from top to bottom of that organization, including VPs, were very easy and open to discuss anything with. They all seemed very in tune to what was going on and wanted to hear what we had to say. I found that quite impressive, you don’t often see that.”

Forbes says he was particularly impressed with MacDon’s approach to making a better product.

“It is nice to see the company trying to improve themselves. They’re asking the right questions and they’re talking to the right people to understand what the issues are so they can fix them. That in turn makes a better product for the customer. If the customers are happy, it makes my job a lot easier. It’s a win for everybody.”

In addition to the candid discussions, the listen and learn participants were also given a tour of MacDon’s operations including its manufacturing facilities. The tour gave them an opportunity to speak directly with many of the people who are building the equipment they service everyday, and see some of the quality control measures that MacDon employs on the line.

“I thought that the amount of run time they do on some of the components on the assembly line was pretty cool,” said Forbes. “For example they’ve got a fairly impressive machine that they hook on to the whole center draper and adapter to test all the pressure settings. I had no idea they did that much with the machines.”

Eric Bartchy, a Field Service Technician with Baxla Tractor in Washington Courthouse, Ohio, who also participated in the listen and learn said that the whole experience was valuable for growing his understanding of MacDon and its products.

“I always thought that they had really good product and pride in what they did, and this trip just confirmed all that,” said Bartchy. “It’s easy to see that they care about doing things right.”

And doing things the right way, is something that Bartchy believes strongly in.

“That’s very important for me on the service end of things because it increases your faith in the product. If you don’t have faith in the product, it’s difficult to go out and sell it to one of your customers. And that customer is hopefully going to be your customer for a long time, so it’s a trust thing. So when you’re confident that what you’re selling him is going to work, it’s a whole lot easier.”

Bartchy says that he had one more important take away from his visit, and that was just how approachable everyone was at MacDon.

“If I need help in the future I certainly won’t hesitate about calling somebody if I have an issue. I know they’ll be glad to help.”