Managing a Horticulture Nursery
Horticulture can be considered as an international enterprise serving either for food supply or part of hobbies and visual gratification. Horticulture business enterprise varies from large operations which may use modern technologies with an annual production of millions in volume to small family horticulture business catering to specialized clientele. However, both deliver different levels of challenges in management to run a profitable and successful horticulture business.
The management of a large horticulture business nowadays involves highly technical procedures in a more competitive business arena. Therefore, a regular and thorough update of the new technologies for the enhancement of the operation as well as good interpersonal skills of the managers and the staff are recommended to deliver customer satisfaction.
Customer satisfaction and loyalty is the key to the success of all business enterprise. Customer satisfaction protects a business from the increasing number of competitors who are aggressively operating to win the market share. It is therefore important to maintain the customer satisfaction and loyalty that are already gained and use them to gain more. Remember that a satisfied customer remains loyal and even recommends.
Customer satisfaction depends on the preference of the customers. Some of the areas they consider are (“Measuring and Managing Customer Satisfaction”):
1. quality of the products and service
2. speed of service or delivery
3. accommodation/relationship with the staff or the company
4. prompt action and intelligent recommendation on complaints and criticisms of the customers
5. trust and confidence on the employees and the company
6. types of other services offered
Customers do not always reveal their satisfaction more so their dissatisfaction. However, it can be achieved through the communication with the staff or representative and the customer survey form which can be asked to be filled up by the customers. Both ways require creativity in order to properly interpret and assess the customer’s feedback to plan and take proper action addressing it.
Customer service has proved to be one of the factors that affect customer satisfaction and loyalty. Service standards are important to the customers as well as the business enterprise since they identify the customers’ expectations for the providers to meet.
Customers’ service standards are accessed thru a question and answer reply form based on set of questions on how the customer rate services rendered to them in three stages: (a) from the time of inquiry, (b) to the time of purchase, and (c) after sales support activity. Standards could be patterned after an Industry-set standard or can be designed based on customers’ feedback or employee-generated set of experiences.
The Customer’s Survey aims to interpret and suggest how a business enterprise par vis-à-vis other business enterprises in the same field. It helps the management in the identification of the customers to be served and the kind of service they prefer. It will also divulge the level of their satisfaction with their existing provider and benchmark customer service performance against the best in the industry. This will guide the management in the implementation of the proper action as well as making the plan for further development and improvement of the operation. It will serve as a spark that will trigger the development of new service ideas and discover new products simultaneous with the establishment of a symbiotic relationship between the customer and the employees.
On the other hand, Customer Service Survey also provides customers the necessary information for an easy access of the service and choice of delivery. It also serves as a venue for the customers to communicate their complaints for a fast and proper management of concerns (“Executive order 12862: Setting Customer Standards “) which they are expecting. Appropriate information and interventions provided to the customers generate customer’s loyalty.
In this era of globalization, technology plays a vital role in the dissemination of information which allows fast and regular exchange of communication with the customers. The use of cellular phones and electronic mails pave way for a constant communication enhancing relationship with customers. Many large business enterprises utilize knowledge portals for faster and convenient communication and transactions. Knowledge portal is a systematic, updated, and standardized web-based network of information. It does not only serve as library in the business but also serve as an active support to different process and area of work in the business management (JANSEN, 2006). Customers, therefore, can readily access the information and the necessary documents they need even after office hours which is more convenient to them. This will be a plus factor since most of the customers preferred those who value their time and effort. However, knowledge portals should combine with workforce who utilizes the knowledge available in the knowledge portals for proper knowledge management. The ability to analyze and the course of action for the attainment of the business objectives mainly depends on the workforce that uses the information and technology. The information supplied by the customers online will only be advantageous for the business if it is acted upon accordingly and swiftly. Reply to their queries and the action taken should be communicated the soonest possible. It is also advised to do a follow-up call to make sure that the customer received the information he needs. It is then clear that a good knowledge management does not rely mainly on the knowledge portals although it can house a vast amount of information and procedures in a span of time. The combination of having knowledge portals and efficient workforce prove to gain benefits like increased opportunities to innovate, faster product development, overcome internal and external barriers, enhancement of customer relationship and business growth. (ALAVI, 2001) Management should therefore consider trainings which will encourage the personnel to master the skills needed in their respective sector.
In horticulture business, many sectors work in synergy to meet the complex demands of the global markets which can be determined through the customer service survey. Thorough analysis and interpretation of the customer’s input rendered by the competent analyst will be relayed to the concerned departments for an appropriate action. Such departments includes the production department from nursery to harvesting, research and development covering genetic technology for creating new plant forms to meet customers’ preference (Hewett), pest control department, warehousing and delivery department, marketing department and management. Synchronized action addressing the customer’s concern can be achieved by having a customer service system with competent and effective personnel.
Competent and effective personnel and staff are more of an investment. Motivation and rewards give self-esteem to the employees making them enthusiastic and loyal working for you. It is both gaining self respect and respect from others by satisfying the desire for achievement and competence and the desire for recognition, fame and glory. An example is a worker who is efficient and effective in carrying his responsibilities and duties of the position and being a perennial achiever gives him a continuous self-esteem. He struggles to maintain the sense of worth and belongingness to the company as well as the society. The self-direction established gives a positive attitude towards work enabling him to do complex work. This empowerment lets the employee handles customer’s complaint with confidence and conviction. The positive attitude radiates towards the customer who sees an individual personnel as the whole company. According to Steven R. Covey from his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “…always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your customers.”
Marketing representative is the front liner of the company and therefore should be trained in properly epitomizing the company. He should have high level of professionalism with good listening and communication skills. Paying attention to what the customer is saying may give relevant information which will be beneficial to the company while making him feel important saying important matters. Being knowledgeable of the products and strategically capable of building a proactive and problem solving mood enables the customer to trust the company. This will be the start of good relationship with the customer. Regular monitoring and communicating with the customer promotes loyalty and invites referrals. Keeping them informed will protect the relationship from competitors. Being honest of admitting something not yet confirmed will enhance customer’s trust, however, make sure that an answer will be given the soonest possible. Regular communication offers new information and can be a venue of exploring other concern that can be answered by another product or service. Maintaining existing customers by establishing their loyalty and then winning new ones will keep the business rolling. This is mainly the objective of setting the customer service system.
The customer service system includes planning, strategy, resource allocation and evaluation. To encourage the personnel to consistently implement customer service system, they should participate in creating the system to make them aware of the importance of the system to them and the company. Each personnel will be working towards a common goal and vision of the customer service system. The duties and responsibility of each will be defined and understood in unison. Furthermore, having an active participation in creating the system gives everyone the full knowledge of addressing any feedback from the customer. Proper channeling and delegation of work will be smooth and systematic. Every personnel can take an active participation in the customer service system and will be contributory for an effective service rendered.
Improvement of the customer service system lies on the training, coaching, the rewards or compliments and the environment. The management must allocate budget for the development of the system. This will enhance the confidence of each personnel that the management supports and will always back them up. In this regard, department managers and supervisors should have ample skills in giving feedbacks on customer service. It is therefore advised to include the training of the managers in the customer service plan. (Scholl, 1997)
Regular monitoring of the customers feedback ensures satisfactory results. Maintenance of records of each customer will give ready reference for the company of the buying history and capacity for future planning. Promoting team-building among the personnel also build a good relationship with the customers. Setting of meeting or discussion with key customers is also suggested for it may give important details that will help in the modification of the customer service system. Synergy amongst the departments – from the nursery to marketing to delivery and after sales service – which participate in an effective and prompt customer service will prove to be the winning edge against the increasing level of competition.
ALAVI, M., and Leidner, D. (2001). Review: Knowledge Management and Knowledge Management Systems. . () : Conceptual
Foundations and Research Issues, MIS Quarterly, 25, 1, 107-136, 1(25), 107-136.
Executive order 12862: Setting Customer Standards Retrieved February 13, 2007, from http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/npr/library/direct/orders/2222.html
Hewett, E. W. PROGRESSIVE CHALLENGES IN HORTICULTURAL SUPPLY CHAINS: SOME FUTURE CHALLENGES. ISHS Acta Horticulturae 712 Retrieved February 14, 2007, from www.actahort.org
JANSEN, C., BACH, V., OSTERLE, H (2006). Knowledge Portals: Using the Internet to Enable Business Transformation.
Measuring and Managing Customer Satisfaction. from http://www.nbrii.com/Customer_Surveys/Whitepapers.html
Scholl, M. ( 1997). Building a Customer Service System