Online Only: Two Way Street
Grower Lloyd Traven and plant buyers Stephen Barlow and Amy Seuberth highlight the importance of communication between growers and retailers.
April 29, 2009
One thing most people know about Lloyd Traven of Peace Tree Farm is that he doesn’t have a problem speaking his mind. His weekly “Rants,” sent out by eMail, touch on just about anything that he finds worthy of his two cents. They are generally well-received (sometimes not) and often conjure up discussions and feedback from those who read it.
Communication is something Traven does well, and it definitely carries over to his retail customers – New Jersey’s Amy Seuberth from The Farm at Green Village and Stephen Barlow of Barlow’s Flowers can testify to that. And when it comes to contacting each other, all three agree that a good deal of expectation gets involved.
“After chasing a retailer for five weeks with phone calls, eMails, messages left with their secretary…enough already,” Traven recounts a recent experience with one of his buyers. “All I want to hear is ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ And ‘no’ is okay. Just tell me you’re getting the eMails and messages and that you’ll get back to me. Just tell me something.”
This particular instance was an outlier for Traven. His normal interactions with customers typically occur on a once a week basis, at least. He works on three circuits: phone, eMail and fax. “I send out availability, pictures and my Rant.”
In building and keeping quality relationships with his customers, Traven has learned that everything revolves around honest communication. “Tell them what it looks like. If it looks great, let them know that. If it doesn’t look great, let them know that,” he says. “No surprises.”
Peace Tree Farm customer Amy Seuberth of The Farm at Green Village says, “I know I’m getting a good product. Lloyd’s upfront about it. He’ll tell me, ‘Don’t take that’ or ‘It’s not ready yet.’”
With some of Peace Tree Farm’s larger, higher profile customers, Traven has learned that this necessary communication might demand more than one phone call and more than one eMail. He understands that while these customers want to talk to him and require that personalized touch, they also expect him to do all the footwork and make all the follow-ups.
“They expect me to understand that he or she will be interrupted several times during our conversation and will probably have to leave at one point, which means I’ll have to call them back later to finish the order,” explains Traven. “I understand that, and I’m fine with it.”
Speaking of personalized, Seuberth refers to an eMail she recently received from Lloyd. “This morning I got an eMail from him saying, “Great new and weird datura available and you’re the first one to know about it. That email just went to me and that’s nice.” Seuberth loves it when growers keep an eye out for her. “We don’t have time to look around and find what’s new,” she says. “We just get into a routine of ordering…begonias, vinca, impatiens.”