Customer Service Makes All the Difference in Greenhouse Projects

Stuppy Greenhouse prides itself on step-by-step guidance from planning to completion.

At the core of every successful greenhouse project is excellent design, quality material and knowledgeable construction. Customer service is a sometimes-overlooked fourth element and is a point of pride for Stuppy Greenhouse.

Chad Gooley, Regional Sales Manager for Stuppy, says he is available to customers from the very beginning of their project all the way through the last punch list. When the greenhouse is complete, he trains the client on how to operate its systems, from environmental controls and irrigation, to structural and equipment maintenance. Gooley is one of seven salespeople at Stuppy, each of whom has years of industry experience.

“All combined, we have a cumulative knowledge that may be unsurpassed in the industry,” Gooley says. “That means if one of us runs up against a problem we haven’t dealt with before, someone else probably has and knows a solution.”

Knowing the Right Questions and Educating the Customer

Constructing a new greenhouse can feel intimidating to new customers, who sometimes aren’t entirely sure what they need. Gooley begins by asking questions about what they plan to grow. Every project includes questions such as, will there be a propagation area? Will you be growing on benches or in the ground? What type of irrigation do you plan to use? Will you want a fog system or in-floor heat?

Education Greenhouse High School Horticulture

Stuppy’s Rainbow® Plus greenhouse provides a sturdy structure with high sidewalls, suitable for hanging baskets and providing plenty of clearance for workers.

“If they are a school and they say, ‘hanging baskets,’ that tells me I need to put in plenty of support and at least 9 to 10-foot sidewalls. Schools make money from plant sales, so I ask about that — do they want a roll-up door in the end wall to allow people to flow in and out easily? Do they want a classroom or a headhouse?”

Gooley always visits the site and walks it with the client. He discusses utility usage, possible challenges with the site, building codes, time frames, the best orientation for the greenhouse for lighting and many other details.

“It’s easy to buy a greenhouse kit off the internet,” Gooley says, “but I work hard to be the trusted advisor to my clients. I make sure I’m putting information in front of them that I can prove, and I use my experience to show how particular structures have worked for other customers. If they want to visit examples or get references, we can make that happen, as well.”

Budget discussions are an important part of the initial talks. Gooley will provide an initial quote within a week of gathering the information needed and will follow up to make sure it’s in line with customer expectations. “First-time clients don’t always have a good idea of what a greenhouse should cost, so this helps to set expectations,” he says. “We can continue to adjust from there.”

If it’s a greenhouse for a school, teachers often need this initial quote to apply for grant money, and if they receive funding, they usually need to obtain at least three bids from contractors to build it. Commercial projects usually go up for bidding, as well, and Gooley helps customers go through the process. He can provide generic specs if needed and help the customer understand the bids and what they include.

For instance, a customer may not understand grades of steel, or a heater might be a cheaper model that doesn’t have a stainless-steel heat exchanger, which would make it last longer. Gooley says it is important to him that his clients understand what they are purchasing and make informed decisions.

Stepping Back But Not Away

Once the project starts, one of Stuppy’s project managers takes over day-to-day supervision and becomes the main contact for the customer, but Gooley is only a phone call away. “I take a step back so there aren’t too many chefs in the kitchen, but I am copied on everything and can always see what’s happening,” Gooley says. “Stuppy has an excellent project management team, and I trust them completely. But if a client needs to talk to me, I’m always available.” Gooley tells customers — if problems arise during construction, they will be taken care of. “We’re an established business that has been building greenhouses for a very long time,” he says. “We stand by our work, and it is backed up all the way to the top of the company. It’s not a hollow promise.”

A-Frame Greenhouse Controlled Environment Light Deprivation School Education

Stuppy’s CS3 greenhouse is versatile enough to accommodate many types of crops, including the growing tower Gooley’s customer needed.

Upon completion, Gooley steps back in to train the client on how to operate the systems, maintain them, and most of all, to make sure the customer is completely satisfied. One of his most rewarding projects involved a number of challenges, which he fully embraced.

“The customer wanted to grow leafy greens in towers for restaurants and stores in an area where access to fresh food was limited,” Gooley says. “We don’t provide the towers, but I worked with the supplier to find out what they needed, and our engineering team designed a 330’ x 120’ CS3 structure with 12-foot walls to meet the code. We put in heated concrete floors, bug screening, interior shade systems, and space for processing, packing and storing the harvest, including large refrigerators. The site itself was on a hill, and that brought its own challenges. It was a great project, and in the end, the customer was really happy with it.”

Customer service, including planning, design, good communication and final training can make the difference between a stressful experience for the client or a comfortable one. It can make the difference between a project that falls short of expectations or one that meets and exceeds them.

For more information on how Stuppy’s sales team can help you plan and build your greenhouse project, visit stuppy.com