EDITORIAL – Blues Magazine.
SOTA Tractors was the first company in Australia to specialise in products and services for small acreage owners (SAO). It was the first company to provide tailor made packages for its clients on a national basis. It was also the first company in Australia to standardise its front end loaders with a 4-in-1 bucket. The SOTA Group, which stands for State Of The Art, was established 25 years ago and has been an innovator from the start. Founded by Bruce Cooper, the company has always looked for new and innovative ways in which to market its products.
“When we first started importing tractors, we operated through a dealer network. Our dealers told us that there was no demand for a 4-in-1 bucket on compact tractors” said Mr Cooper. “Their rationale was that the payload of a 4-in-1 wasn’t as big as a standard bucket and would cost a lot more.”
“We proved that to be an error in judgement. Firstly, it was our belief that conventional dealers did not understand the needs of small acreage owners. Their needs differ considerably to those of commercial farmers. Commercial farmers, who may manage hundreds of hectares, have specific needs in terms of loader lift capacity, payload, time constraints and so on, whereas a SAO is likely to have quite different requirements. These constraints are often less of a problem for SAOs, many of whom are women, and a 4-in-1 bucket is likely to save their back! They have different tasks such as pulling out weeds, collecting firewood or debris, spreading mulch on their new garden bed and so on. All these tasks are made easier by using a 4-in-1 bucket” said Mr Cooper.
“Clearly, the market agreed with us because within the course of 18 months or so, most of the larger tractor companies and many of the smaller companies had copied SOTA and were spruiking a 4-in-1 loader as an option. History shows us that innovators are soon copied by the less innovative. However, there is one area we believe impossible for our competitors to match and that is SOTA’s commitment to our customers.”
“A customer oriented company can only be established and maintained if a customer service ethos is driven from the highest level of management down. Customer service is not talking the talk: it’s walking the walk” said Mr Cooper. “You’ve got to be prepared to walk a mile in your customer’s shoes and the only way you can do that is to listen to them; it’s all about empathy.”
“It’s my view that unreasonable customers are few and far between whereas there are countless organisations that do not deliver what they have promised and that is the genesis of a disgruntled customer. Agricultural dealers are no exception and that’s where many of them come unstuck, promising things such as spurious 5 year warranties or offering tractors that have no support in terms of a fair warranty or spare parts support.”
“At SOTA, we provide state of the art customer service – we don’t just sell tractors and implements. That is the reason we abandoned the traditional dealer network model and started selling direct to our customers. Not only could we remove the middle man, making products cheaper, we were also able to raise our customer service levels significantly because we could ensure that we had the right people, procedures and processes in place to delight our customers. We’re the best because we are always trying to get better – that’s the state of the art.”