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...
Graduates Interested in Cannabis

August 23, 2017

Cannabis is an Appealing Career Choice for New Graduates

While few universities offer specific courses in cannabis, many of them teach similar skills that can be applied to the ever-growing cannabis field.

Read More
Canadian Greenhouse Conference

August 22, 2017

Canadian Greenhouse Conference Features Tracks on Pest Control, Water Management, and More

The Canadian Greenhouse Conference, which takes place Oct. 4-5, 2017, in Niagara Falls, ON, Canada, is the country’s foremost event for flower, vegetable, cannabis, and nursery growers.

Read More
Flowering Potted Plants

August 22, 2017

Greenhouse Growers Spring Crops Report: Sales Up for Most Growers

Despite a general increase in sales, a mix of cold, rainy weather and lack of labor availability presented some serious challenges for growers and retailers in the 2017 spring season.

Read More
Latest Stories
Graduates Interested in Cannabis

August 23, 2017

Cannabis is an Appealing Career Choice for New Graduate…

While few universities offer specific courses in cannabis, many of them teach similar skills that can be applied to the ever-growing cannabis field.

Read More
Canadian Greenhouse Conference

August 22, 2017

Canadian Greenhouse Conference Features Tracks on Pest …

The Canadian Greenhouse Conference, which takes place Oct. 4-5, 2017, in Niagara Falls, ON, Canada, is the country’s foremost event for flower, vegetable, cannabis, and nursery growers.

Read More
Flowering Potted Plants

August 22, 2017

Greenhouse Growers Spring Crops Report: Sales Up for Mo…

Despite a general increase in sales, a mix of cold, rainy weather and lack of labor availability presented some serious challenges for growers and retailers in the 2017 spring season.

Read More
BrightFarms

August 22, 2017

Greenhouse Company Earns Spot on Inc. 500 Rankings

BrightFarms, a company that finances, designs, builds, and operates greenhouses at or near supermarkets, was recently included in the 36th annual Inc. 500, ranking #235 among America’s fastest growing private companies.

Read More

August 21, 2017

50 Cool Products on Display at the 2017 IGC Show

Check out these cool products vendors showed off at the 2017 IGC Show on the Navy Pier in Chicago, August 15-17.

Read More
NatureFresh Expansion

August 21, 2017

NatureFresh Farms Delays Expansion Due to Labor Shortag…

One of North America’s largest greenhouse tomato growers says it is holding back on an expansion because of the company’s ongoing struggle with finding workers. At the same time, another producer is planning a new 75-acre facility in Georgia.

Read More
Gage Willey

August 17, 2017

Shinoda Scholar of the Year is Aiming for a Long Career…

Gage Willey, a senior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, is working toward a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in Greenhouse/Nursery Production. His goal is to own a production and retail nursery.

Read More
AFE Scholarship Video

August 16, 2017

Looking to Host an Intern This Year? Consider AFE’s Sch…

The American Floral Endowment is accepting applications for its Vic and Margaret Ball Intern Scholarship Program and Mosmiller Intern Scholarship Program until Oct 1. Interested companies can apply anytime to become a host employer.

Read More
griffin-expo

August 15, 2017

Griffin Becomes Newest Distributor for Master Nursery G…

The agreement allows Griffin to join Master Nursery’s network of more than 150 supplier partners, while giving Master Nursery access to new product and service options for member businesses in the Midwest, Rocky Mountain, and Pacific Northwest regions.

Read More
Tal Coley, AmericanHort Director of Government Affairs

August 15, 2017

AmericanHort Has a New Director of Government Affairs

Tal Coley, a U.S. Air Force veteran who has an extensive background in issues advocacy, will play an active role in AmericanHort’s upcoming Impact Washington event in September.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

August 15, 2017

Why Consumers May Be More Interested in Plants Than You…

A visit to a local lavender event is a reminder that when you tap into something consumers are excited about and want to experience, the reward can be long-lasting,

Read More
Sam Bridge Nursery After Renovations

August 8, 2017

Connecticut Greenhouse Facing Local Fight Over Landscap…

Sam Bridge Nursery and Greenhouses was recently issued a cease and desist order claiming it is running a landscape business from a nursery. The company is challenging the order and is asking for industry support.

Read More
California Coast

August 7, 2017

Floral Industry is Providing a Boost to the Coastal Cal…

Floral and nursery crops brought in almost $98 million in 2016, a nearly $3 million increase from the previous year. Future growth could be even bigger if cannabis production continues to expand.

Read More
Micandy Gardens Greenhouses Team Photo

August 7, 2017

How Micandy Gardens Encourages Buy-in From Its Employee…

Micandy encourages its employees to be responsible, and because of that, recycling and thinking about the environmental footprint are simply a way of life.

Read More
Catoctin Mountain Growers Owners feature

August 3, 2017

Innovation Never Stops at Catoctin Mountain Growers

The Van Wingerden family knows the importance of keeping up with change, and is always looking to make the necessary updates at its Maryland operation.

Read More
Costa Farms Owners

August 1, 2017

Costa Farms Will Maintain Operations “the Costa Way” Wi…

The Miami, FL-based, Top 100 Grower operation announced an agreement for Markel to acquire a majority interest in Costa Farms and its related companies. But the operation will continue to be run by current leadership, with the partnership Markel offers to allow it to continue to grow.

Read More

August 1, 2017

MPS Honors D.S. Cole Growers for 10 Years of Sustainabi…

At Cultivate’17, a ceremony to mark a 10-year milestone since D.S. Cole Growers became involved with More Profitable Sustainability (MPS), as the first U.S. grower to achieve MPS certification, took owner Doug Cole by surprise. Separate celebrations also recognized Metrolina Greenhouses and Dümmen Orange for achieving MPS certification.

Read More
Megan Haresnape

August 1, 2017

American Floral Endowment Awards More Than $36,000 in S…

Twenty horticulture students were recently awarded scholarships from American Floral Endowment. Here’s your chance to get to know them, and the mark they hope to make on the industry.

Read More