This year’s CAAR Conference features an in-depth look at the changing landscape of ag from the industry’s top experts. Exploring topics like customer loyalty and the changing agri-retail customer, The Communicator caught up with two of our conference speakers to give delegates a taste of what to expect at the conference.

Bill Keogh: Building Loyalty Through Great Customer Experience
Thursday, February 16, 9 – 10 a.m.

Bill Keogh has been fine-tuning how to build customer loyalty and improve customer experience throughout his 37 years in the ag industry, and will share that experience with conference attendees.

“It’s a bit of a brutal truth, but I think agri-retailers labour under a bit of a false impression that they do better with their customers than they actually do,” he says.

As a founding partner at Experiata, Keogh has discovered that around 25 per cent of an agri-retailer’s customers are not willing to recommend them to another farmer. “It’s difficult to grow your business if you have that kind of weight and baggage,” he says.

“Ag suffers a little bit because a lot of these people grew up together and they assume some things that may or may not be true,” says Keogh. “This goes on all the time in ag because a lot of these people might be from the same town – they think they know some things.”

According to Keogh, agri-retailers confuse knowing their customers with sharing the same culture. “We like the same things, and we go to the same church, but I don’t necessarily know your business,” he says.

“In the industry, we can do better. The truism is we’re not doing as well as we could.”

With numerous projects involving sales effectiveness and customer experience management under his belt, Keogh supports Experiata clients with a wealth of strategic and tactical know-how. Experiata helps companies become more aligned with their customers through a seamless process of measuring and managing the experiences that drive loyalty and share of business.

Michelle Ray: Take the Lead with Your Customers
Thursday, February 16, 1 – 2 p.m.

Michelle Ray will provide conference attendees with an in-depth look at the changing relationship between agri-retailers and their customers, examining the influence of technology and how retailers can take initiative with their customers.

With today’s technology, Ray says that customer expectations have not only changed, but are also exceedingly high. “We are extremely savvy and aware of what is available to us as a customer, and we are often one step ahead of the businesses that we’re purchasing from,” she says. “We’ve got a desire to receive goods and services in a quick manner. We are expecting the people that are serving us to not only meet our expectations, but to also be able to anticipate our needs.”

Technology also means that customers are more informed than ever before, says Ray. “There are different ways that companies can deliver service,” she says. “Not only when they’re face-to-face with the customer, but they can also look at the online options. There are lots of different things that are happening that the customers are aware of. So, if the customers are aware, we need to be aware, too.”

Retailers and producers have relationships that span many years with a rich history, but at the conference, attendees will learn about the changing agri-retail customer. “In some cases, some of the family-run businesses are passing the torch to the next generation. While that’s happening, the demographics are changing in people’s workplaces,” she says. “For the rural community, it’s another thing to be aware of. If it’s a younger customer, they’ve got different ideas; different ways of going about things.”

She says the core of her message is about taking initiative and taking the lead with customers, posing the question: “Are our customers going to lead us, or are we going to lead our customers?”

Born in Australia and now residing in Vancouver, Michelle Ray is an international business keynote speaker, entrepreneur, author, educator and the founder of the Lead Yourself First Institute. She helps people and organizations of every description take the lead, get out of their comfort zones and develop the willingness to risk. She is also a regular columnist for the Globe and Mail’s Leadership Lab.

Visit the Speakers page to learn more about the full line-up of conference speakers.

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