Supporting Ag Dealers in Customer Service
Our agricultural equipment manufacturer client needed to revamp their web app for their dealer customers. The app lacked a clear product vision and was too big to manage long term. It also had lower customer satisfaction and didn’t have key features the dealers needed to be successful.
We helped them grow their Agile development practices, improve their product ownership approach and add crowd-pleasing features to improve customer satisfaction.
What We Did
Our agricultural equipment manufacturer customer serves their dealer network and farm operators with software products.
They recognized a need to grow their Agile practices and implement a continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline to prepare for a revamp of their entire web app for dealers. The revamp of the product would provide expanded features to the dealers, namely in the form of improved reporting. Tougher competition from industry software providers instigated their investment in features to improve customer satisfaction.
The web application helps dealers create and manage service agreements and support plans for their customers. These services include maintenance, technical phone support, and other ongoing services. For example, a farmer purchasing a tractor from a dealer might also purchase a maintenance plan. Additional services are important to these dealers’ businesses, yet the existing app wasn’t meeting their needs. It was slow and resulted in many missed opportunities for generating revenue from these post-sale equipment services.
The original app was built several years ago, but lacked a clear product vision for the future and wasn’t not designed for long term manageability. There was a lot of overlap between it and other sales tools that the dealers use – it lacked a user-centered development approach. After meeting with our client to discuss their needs, we agreed that they needed Agile and product ownership coaching to support this area of their business.
We previously supported the Agile transformation and product improvements for this client, so they engaged us to help them in this new effort. Read about those projects in Managing and Monitoring Heavy Machinery and Propelling a New Generation of Tractors.
Product Vision and Roadmapping
We helped them create a product roadmap to envision the future of the tool. Agile product ownership was a fairly immature practice so our goal was to model and teach how it could be done, and why it mattered. We took a user-centered approach, engaging dealers and stakeholders to uncover features that mattered to them and would make a meaningful difference.
Development and CI/CD pipeline improvements
We provided technical guidance to support our client in splitting the application into modular components that can be owned and managed by independent product teams moving forward. This approach allowed product teams to own, develop, and deploy improvements to the app quickly and incrementally without the coordination overhead of managing a large monolith app.
One aspect of support provided was to create custom Jenkins CI/CD scripts that would allow areas to be tested and integrated on a continuous basis.
Adding crowd-pleasing features
After that, we worked on improving the app’s reporting functionality, and helped our client move parts of the application to AWS as a part of a company-wide initiative to host their services in the cloud. Some of the original visuals were not accessible to all users, so we made the experience of displaying data less confusing and more clear.
That most challenging feature involved providing dealer data in a read-only fashion. It required unraveling a tangled web of permissions and roles without damaging the live production app. It was complex, delicate, and left no room for error.
Gnarly bug hunting!
We also examined the root cause of defects and common customer complaints and designed and implemented solutions to fix them. In one instance, a messaging queue issue was causing significant slow downs to the entire enterprise system. We quickly identified the issue and fixed it, impressing our client with the speed to resolution.
Onboarding and hand-off
Towards the end of the engagement, we brought a new internal client team up to speed to take over after we wrapped up. The process we used helped improve how our client pairs up teams to accomplish development.
Our work helps dealers better understand their business through streamlined features that provide the data they need when they need it. It also helped align internal client stakeholders on a product vision for the future and grew Agile practices within their software development practice.
The app’s approval ratings increased 65%+ from when we started. We definitely helped them accomplish their goal of moving the needle on customer satisfaction.
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