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Digital solutions can’t replace business connections

Sam Maglio, president of Maglio Companies of Milwaukee, WI, BB #:105281 says his company’s role in the produce industry is to provide solutions to all the problems facing its customers and their consumers. Newly created or adapted technologies solve many of these difficulties.

“Our job is to know and understand the opportunity and limitations of the technology, and then develop and explain solutions to address problems using the best available methods,” Maglio says.

On the negative side, Mike Agostini, owner and consultant at Miago Produce Services in Rogers, AR, cautions that with the technology available now, business partners can easily become more impersonal and share less actual face time with customers.

Social media can be extremely beneficial to help spread awareness, but it can also be harmful if it’s used to spread misinformation, says Rebecca Catlett, director of marketing and communications for Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., BB #:337660 Summerland, BC.

“Okanagan Specialty Fruits is diligent in our approach to ensure we’re sharing the right information, while also being considerate of other’s differing opinions,” she says.

Diligence and Flexibility
The communication tools available give everyone better insight into product quality, says Paul Pappas, executive vice president of Pete Pappas & Sons, Inc. BB #:100956 in Jessup, MD.

Drivers can photograph product while in transit and send reports by text.

At Peri & Sons Farms, BB #:126045 email, texting, and instant messaging platforms score highest when it comes to the most valuable industry relationship tools, according to Ace McClellan, IT manager.

“These platforms not only allow us to more easily communicate with customers and partners, but they open channels where team members can provide each department with relevant information, updates, and timely content all with our customers’ best interests in mind.

“These tools enhance our company’s internal relationships as well as external relationships,” McClellan says, giving his company the ability to provide customers with important information and accommodate last-minute requests.

With social media, employees communicate with their customers on a whole new level, he says. Buyers can relate exactly what they like and don’t like.

“We can make our customers feel like they’re a part of our team by incorporating some of their suggestions and giving them a behind-the-scenes look at our farm and crews,” McClellan says.

“In return, we often find ourselves following our customer’s social media accounts, liking their posts, and congratulating them on their accomplishments.”

It’s hard to think of a better business relationship than when a company’s supplier is publicly rooting for its success, McClellan says.

Catlett notes that the industry has at its disposal a great variety of tools to enhance daily work. She singles out social media for its capacity to reach audiences and improve industry relationships.

“It requires diligence and flexibility, as social media changes rapidly,” she says. “That makes it necessary for us to be adaptable with our approaches.” It is also crucial to be transparent, she says, with one’s message and audience.

This is a multi-part feature adapted from an article in the May/June 2020 issue of Produce Blueprints.