Mark Schermer about the COVID-19 crisis: ‘Now it is most important to support our customers’


On the Dutch day of the Horticulture, Mark Schermer, Head of Syngenta Flowers Europe, was interviewed by Goedemorgen Sierteelt (Good Morning Floriculture). He spoke of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on Syngenta Flowers, but also what it means for the companies’ contact with customers and employees. 

What impact does corona have on Syngenta Flowers? 
‘Corona hit us in the prime time of our young plant production. A large amount of orders, already prepared for shipping, was cancelled. As a painful result, a crew was almost working fulltime emptying Xtrays. You feel powerless when your view from the isolated office is on little trains with Xtrays driving to the dump. The ex-growers in our team can’t help to feel the pain of the horticulture sector and can barely view the sights of the emptied Xtrays.’ 

How do people at Syngenta Flowers cope with this crisis? 
‘We’re lucky that we (still) don’t have many cases of corona infections. At Syngenta, health and safety are highly valued. That is why we conducted measurements as soon as possible. Many office people are now working from home and at locations such as De Lier (NL), we work with a reduced amount of people. Of course, measurements concerning disinfection and safe distancing are taken in action too. 

We are immensely proud of our people because they handle this new situation with complications very well. That is what we call a top team! And we’re lucky to be part of the bigger Syngenta which has a good infrastructure with all necessary digital tools. This way we could switch quickly to digital business operations.’ 

What do you do for your customers? 
‘In this crisis we shifted our focus to our customers. Most important is now to support them. We asked our sales professionals and customer service to be the ratio in emotional times. Customers do appreciate that. Also, we smoothend our conditions when it comes to cancellations of young plant orders. We listen to our customers and try to look over the crisis with them, even though that is hard to do.’ 

Is there still positivity in these times? 
‘Yes, we’re happy to see positive developments as well in these times. For example, #LetHopeBloom - a Dutch initiative of the local horticulture and famous Dutch rapper Ali B. We were an important player in the background of this initiative. Also, we participated in the local #FlowerBoostChallenge on LinkedIn. For this challenge we gave plants and created a little garden for residents at a mental care facility in Dongen (NL). 

Within Syngenta Flowers we encouraged our employees (10.000 in Europe) to cheer on people to go gardening at home with the hashtag #FlowersFeedTheSoul. Many co-workers listened and shared creative gardening tips with photo and videos from their own garden or balcony.’ 

At the end of the interview Mark gave a last encouraging message to the entire horticulture business: ‘Hold on, we will get through this because together we will stand strong.’