Everything Matters To Customers

Jolly Farmer is headquartered in New Brunswick, Canada, and serves nearly 3,000 small- to mid-sized growers throughout North America.

High-quality, clean plants. Shipping plants in small increments. Returning calls. Giving access to an on-call horticulturist. Informing customers of all costs up front. Sending thank-you notes. These are all things Jolly Farmer does that add up to good customer service, which is of utmost importance to the operation headquartered in the Saint John River Valley of New Brunswick, Canada.

One might say the young plant grower has an old-fashioned view of the way customers should be treated, although its operations — and the way it does business — are fully modernized. But when it comes to customer service, everything matters right down to the last detail, and it can make a big difference in an operation’s bottom line, says Jolly Farmer Sales Manager Peter Darrow.

“One of our goals is to make it easy to do business with our company,” Darrow says. “Part of that is being able to answer and return calls promptly. We try to call everyone back within an hour of when they leave a message. That really means something.”

Quality Speaks For Itself
In an industry like floriculture, quality needs to be a given, Darrow says. Jolly Farmer has instilled strict sanitation and insect control standards, so the plants it ships are clean.

“When I get a comment from a customer saying, ‘The state inspector was here and when I told him I get my plants from Jolly Farmer, he said he didn’t need to inspect because your material is always clean,’ that’s a vote of confidence,” Darrow says. “That’s number one, because if we’re sending out something that isn’t clean, the customer is going to have to struggle all the way through.”

Jolly Farmer sells directly to its grower customers, bypassing the broker network. Darrow says that connection gives the operation a direct link to its customers that other producers don’t have. Customer service representatives are assigned to each grower and Jolly Farmer has made it a policy to have someone available to answer telephone calls at all times during business hours.

“People want to feel important,” Darrow says. “They want to feel that you’re listening, that you’re thinking about them. Customer service has so much to do with understanding and relating to them. We train our staff that way and it’s a big part of the criteria for who we hire to work with customers.”

Jolly Farmer’s primary customers are small- to medium-sized growers and grower-retailers throughout North America. Its largest customer spans three acres, yet the operation produces more than 98 million plugs and liners annually, with the majority (83 percent) of its material produced from seed.

Provide Customer-centric Services
Because of the size of its customers, Jolly Farmer offers services that appeal to the smaller grower. This means offering a no-minimum-order policy and providing many of its products in smaller ordering increments — third trays and half trays of different plants. Customers can mix and match any combination of the products it offers in small increments in a shipping box, up to 24 different items.

“This is a key factor to enabling customers to not over-order,” Darrow says. “We tell them we want them to order the product that they can grow and sell at a good margin. If they don’t sell it, no one has benefited.”

Its customers also know up-front what all of their costs are — including the price of plants, royalties and shipping — to elminate any surprises later. The cost of freight is one thing Jolly Farmer has carefully measured for efficiency, using the same size box for all of its shipments via FedEx. The dimensions of the box allow the dimensional weight to be very close to the actual weight. FedEx measures both weights and charges for whichever is higher, Darrow says.

“When our customers are trying to figure out how to price their finished product, they need to know the whole picture,” Darrow says. “They don’t want to know in July that there’s a freight bill coming that they hadn’t counted on.”

The operation also offers discounts for early ordering, early payment and high-volume orders, as well as 60-day credit terms.

“This flexibility lets customers choose, based on their cash flow,” Darrow says. “All of these pieces make a whole package, positioning us as a valuable supplier.”

Connect Customers With Culture
Part of buying young plants from Jolly Farmer also includes access to on-call horticulturist Ron Adams, who contracts with Jolly Farmer to provide its customers with plant culture support. The 30-plus-year veteran is now a private horticultural consultant who formerly worked for Ball Horticultural Co. for many years.

“He’s a third party, which keeps the lines clear between our operation and our customers,” Darrow says. “We have emphasized with Ron that if he sees something we’re doing wrong, we want to know about it, but if the customer needs help, we want him to teach that customer. An honest appraisal of the situation is important and it has worked out well.”

That attention to detail extends to Jolly Farmer’s 200-page, 4-color catalog, which includes cultural information and guides, and how to plan each season. Darrow also attends California Spring Trials, as well as grower trials at C. Raker & Sons in Michigan and Metrolina Greenhouses in North Carolina to advise customers about new varieties and how they are performing.

“We can’t offer everything — selling direct has certain limits,” Darrow says. “But we have a great line-up and we want to make sure we’re offering the best available plants. Viewing field evaluations helps us reinforce what we’re doing and let customers know that we are offering great varieties.”

Don’t Be Indifferent
In the end, all of the services Jolly Farmer provides show its customers that they are valued — and when customers feel valued, they feel loyal, Darrow says.

“Two-thirds of customers who stop buying at a company do so because they were treated with indifference,” Darrow says. “That doesn’t mean the service was poor — it means the customer service representatives were indifferent. They didn’t care.
“We are always looking at how we can make customer service repeatable. Our reps never do canned speeches. We want them to be spontaneous but they work with a process so their service has a friendly flow of information.
“We read the feedback forms and ask customers how we can do better. There’s always something. Most of all, we listen. Listen, listen, listen to your customers. That’s the key to repeat business.”

Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Management...
MANTS

December 16, 2017

Join the Emergent Group During a Reception at MANTS

“Emergent: A Group for Growing Professionals” will once again be hosting its Emergent Networking Event at MANTS in Baltimore, MD. The event will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 10.

Read More
Tillandsia Air Plants (Plantiflor)

December 15, 2017

Bonsall Nursery Devastated By California Wildfire

Rainforest Flora lost its main greenhouses and outdoor growing property in the Lilac Fire in San Diego.

Read More

December 15, 2017

Your AFE Donations Will Be Matched Between Now and the End of the Year

Between now and December 1, any donations made to the American Floral Endowment will be matched up to $20,000.

Read More
Latest Stories
MANTS

December 16, 2017

Join the Emergent Group During a Reception at MANTS

“Emergent: A Group for Growing Professionals” will once again be hosting its Emergent Networking Event at MANTS in Baltimore, MD. The event will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 10.

Read More
Tillandsia Air Plants (Plantiflor)

December 15, 2017

Bonsall Nursery Devastated By California Wildfire

Rainforest Flora lost its main greenhouses and outdoor growing property in the Lilac Fire in San Diego.

Read More

December 15, 2017

Your AFE Donations Will Be Matched Between Now and the …

Between now and December 1, any donations made to the American Floral Endowment will be matched up to $20,000.

Read More

December 9, 2017

Southern California Wildfires Narrowly Miss Most Grower…

Here’s an update on horticulture businesses in the areas affected by the California wildfires.

Read More
Weigela Czechmark (Spring Meadow Nursery)

December 8, 2017

Spring Meadow’s New Logo Highlights Focus on New, Color…

In a move that highlights its commitment to developing new, colorful flowering shrubs, Spring Meadow Nursery has unveiled a new logo.

Read More
HortScholars

December 8, 2017

HortScholars Program Now Accepting Applications for 201…

Do you know any college students currently in a horticulture-related program? This unique program gives them a chance to connect with industry leaders and make new connections at Cultivate.

Read More
Kellee O'Reilly

December 5, 2017

We Are Not Immune: An Open Letter to the Green Industry…

We’re an industry rooted in family values, farming, agriculture, passion for nature, and faith. We are also an industry made up predominantly of men in positions of leadership. During an interesting watershed moment that is happening culturally at present, it's important for the green industry to address its own issues.

Read More
GROW-Summit-2017-Group-Photo

December 5, 2017

GROW Summit 2017 Tackles Marketing and Business Managem…

This year’s think-tank style event brought together leaders from across the green industry to deliberate on topics such as disruptive marketing, cost accounting, and Millennials, to name a few.

Read More

December 5, 2017

Skagit Horticulture Builds New, Inclusive Business With…

By merging two large-scale producers, Skagit Gardens and Northwest Horticulture, the new company has realized its strengths through focused divisions that emphasize efficiency and success.

Read More
Young-Grower

December 4, 2017

New Report Shows Older Growers Outnumber Younger Grower…

A survey conducted earlier this year by the National Young Farmers Coalition highlights the far-reaching set of challenges faced by today’s young growers, including rising debt and a struggle to find quality employees.

Read More

December 4, 2017

Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants Debuts as Roberta’s Finali…

On December 1, Eric Wallien of Roberta’s Inc. in Waldron, IN, officially purchased C. Raker & Sons in Litchfield, MI. The new identity of the company is now Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants, according to a Dec. 1 letter to Raker’s customers, suppliers, and business partners from Vice President Susie Raker-Zimmerman. “There have been minimal changes in management and we will be providing the same products and services on which we have built our reputation in the industry,” Raker-Zimmerman said in the letter, which also announced the name change and new logo. The sale of C. Raker & Sons was announced in September . A series of events affecting Raker’s financial situation caused the need for the operation to find an alternate solution. Roberta’s had been a customer of Raker’s since 2011, and the fourth generation, family owned grower-retailer was a fan of Raker’s commitment to quality. The agreement to purchase C. […]

Read More
Worker-Protection-Standards

November 30, 2017

How the New Worker Protection Standard Rules Will Affec…

Keep your employees safe by keeping current with the new Worker Protection Standards for 2018. Here’s a quick summary of the changes coming your way.

Read More
Weigela ‘Maroon Swoon’ (Van Belle Nursery)

November 28, 2017

Van Belle Nursery Among Finalists for International Gro…

The International Association of Horticultural Producers announced nine finalists for its 2018 International Grower of the Year Awards, which will be presented at IPM Essen in January 2018.

Read More
Photo-with-Endless-Summer-Hydrangea

November 27, 2017

Why It’s Important to Get to Know Consumers at th…

One way to learn about consumer behavior is to get boots on the ground and engage with them.

Read More
Jim-Steger-and-Scott-Sterling-J-Berry

November 25, 2017

J. Berry Nursery Strengthens Expertise in Product Devel…

The company recently hired Scott Sterling as Supply Chain Manager and Jim Steger as Production Resource Planner.

Read More
ASCFG-Gretel-and-Steve-Adams-Sunny-Meadow-Flower-Farm-feature

November 22, 2017

Growers Showing Renewed Interest in Specialty Cut Flowe…

At the brink of its 30th anniversary, the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers is connecting a diverse and growing group of members dedicated to producing and marketing cut flowers.

Read More
Griffin Pennsylvania Expo

November 22, 2017

Griffin Sets Dates for 2018 Grower & Retailer Expos

The company will host two Expos next year — one each in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania — and each will be a two-day event.

Read More
Berger-Equipment

November 17, 2017

How You Can Help Berger in Donating to Hurricane Harvey…

Between Nov. 23-27, Berger will donate $1 for every download of its free technical plant production guides to hurricane relief efforts.

Read More