TRUST THE SYSTEM—IT WORKS
Founded in 1916, AgStar is a cooperative organization that provides American farmers a wide variety of financial services, including accounting, consulting, insurance, loans, mortgages, and tax preparation. It supports over 20,000 clients and has a net income of over $123 million.
By completely replacing its manual approach to client entertainment and adopting a fully-automated solution, AgStar revolutionized its internal processes, freeing up countless hours and driving usage to nearly 100%.
It invests in client entertainment as a way to differentiate itself to its clients, providing them with exciting experiences like concerts and live sporting events.
When Jana Stangler joined AgStar in 2011, she quickly discovered it needed a better way to manage its client entertainment.
“I was handed all these tickets,” she recalls. “And I was given no information on how it had all been managed before. I did some digging and discovered that nothing had really been tracked.”
Jana’s boss had built an Excel spreadsheet and had asked staff to manually add their event and guest information whenever they used company-owned tickets. The result?
It never, ever got used. We basically handed out tickets to all of our offices and hoped for the best.
Jana also suspected that event usage was low, but measuring exactly how low was a problem: nothing was being tracked. She began searching for a reliable system that could handle all of AgStar’s client entertainment and increase utilization, and she discovered TicketManager. While learning more about IM, Jana was also witnessing the integration of a new CRM at AgStar.
It wasn’t going well, and Jana had a theory why.
“Historically, we’ve always felt that our company is quite unique—we’re part of the Farm Credit system, we’re a cooperative, and we serve the needs of American farmers. So we selected this CRM, one used by thousands of other large organizations, and we customized it. We wanted it to adapt to how we did business instead of seeing how it could improve our process.”
We found that when you customize business software, you really lose the key functionality that made you want that system in the first place.
“AgStar decided to try a different approach with TicketManager: make a clean break with the past and adopt the system as a whole—no exceptions, and no more spreadsheets.
AgStar implemented TicketManager in 2011, and—as Jana expected—business process change was not initially welcomed in all quarters.
“Some members of our sales team thought we wanted to watch their every move, Big Brother-like,” explains Jana.
“But they soon realized the change created new opportunities for them. Before TicketManager, each of our flagship offices would receive a limited set of exclusive tickets to use if they could. Now, our team has access to entire seasons. They can pick games and dates that work best for them and their clients. It’s made a huge difference.”
The improvements extended beyond the sales team.
“TicketManager made my life easier because I know how and when our events are being used, and I know who’s using them.”
And as with many companies that adopt TicketManager, Jana saw a dramatic increase in ticket utilization: close to 100 percent utilization of tickets each year.
“Because our sales team can see what’s available, we’re using about 96 percent of our tickets, and that’s been very consistent. Before TM, it was more like 60 percent—and probably half of those were going for personal use, not clients.”
For a customer-focused organization like AgStar, great importance is placed on creating amazing experiences for their customers.
“Our clients are farmers. It’s not always easy for them to get away and take in an exciting event because they work so hard, and we want to provide them an amazing experience. I receive Thank You notes from our sales team, and pictures they’ve taken with clients at Minnesota Twins, Vikings, and Timberwolves games. That’s when I know I did a great job sharing the power of experience with them.”
Jana reflects on AgStar’s decision to adopt TicketManager without retaining any vestige of their old process:
“We thought we were really different as a company, but our experience customizing our CRM showed the limits of that kind of thinking. When it comes to client entertainment, we’re really not that unique— we just have different products and clients.”
We learned our lesson: By leaving our old processes behind and embracing TicketManager, we realized the complete benefits of a system built to make client entertainment easy.