Devon-based Tony Benger Landscaping is a multi-disciplined landscaping company that has been established for more than 35 years. Much of its business is for domestic gardens in and around its home county, and many of these homeowners are in the vulnerable people category of over 70 years old.
Since new Government measures around coronavirus have been put in place, the business has started offering support packages for some of its less able customers. We spoke to Gabriele Pangonyte, head of finance and NB at Tony Benger Landscaping, to find out more.
The packages contain various basic non-perishable food products, such as pasta, rice, porridge and tinned goods; but it’s not just a one package for all approach. Gabriele says: “The content of every package is personalised – we first enquire if a customer is interested or even in need of one and then discuss what products we currently have in stock to deliver whilst visiting the property.”
And the company has used great initiative – it isn’t just taking stock from the under-pressure supermarkets. “We considered that commercial food suppliers would be losing trade due to less customers in pubs and restaurants, so we have sourced the products through them.”
Is this just a ruse to retain clients, or is it a genuine attempt to help? “Our initiative is mainly directed at our current ongoing customers with scheduled visits as a token of appreciation,” explains Gabriele. “As a business, we don’t do much advertising, most of our work is through repeat business and referrals.”
For this reason, Tony Benger Landscaping has dedicated itself to finding ways of going the extra mile for customer satisfaction, with the aim of cultivating genuine trust, care and a feeling of community, all values the business promotes.
As of the past weekend, there have been a few enquiries; the company realises it is early days. The business has purchased enough goods for 12 weeks, knowing that if the pandemic has passed by then, they can donate the surplus product to other good causes.
Tony Benger Landscaping’s business is split between residential design and build projects, commercial landscaping construction projects and large grounds maintenance contracts. With anticipated long-term effects in the commercial sector, the business is doing all it can to appease its domestic market.
“A large proportion of our residential customers are retired people who value their family time and see their garden as an extension to their home,” says Gabriele. “They have trust in us and purchase a bespoke, quality and personal service which we stand by.
“Self-isolation for 12 weeks is a long time and can be challenging, especially for the older, less tech-savvy generations. Gardens can represent a haven to exercise, get some fresh air and maintain mental wellbeing. We see this as our mission at this time.”
Before Boris made his lockdown announcement on Monday evening, Tony Benger Landscaping was hoping to continue working as much as possible. “We believe that the nature of our business means that we can continue to work outside without making any direct contact with our clients,” says Gabriele. We are trying to ensure our customers’ confidence in our services in order to keep our staff employed and limit the long-term impact.”
In order to ensure zero contact and minimum level of risk, the company is implementing the following preventative measures:
- No-handshake policy
- Meetings to be held outdoors, keeping the safe social distance of two metres, or via telephone or online services.
- No entry into a client’s home
- No non-essential contact with clients’ outdoor furniture
- Paperless reporting – all visit information, photographs and H&S forms can be filled electronically and e-mailed to clients via our electronic system
With regards to advice that the business would like to pass on, the message is clear: do not allow fear and uncertainty to overwhelm your strategy. It’s important to minimise the risk, review your missions and ensure professional communication to keep trust in the business.
With much uncertainty currently, initiatives like the one Tony Benger Landscaping have put in to place shows a real commitment to the local community and great business nous. Once coronavirus has passed and the country gets back to some sort of normality, it is businesses like this one that will reap the rewards for hard work and dedication.