CUSTOMER RELATIONS

The other major group of people in the human relations triangle are the customers. They are the people who keep the business in existence. Their good will must be cultivated as carefully as the horticulture crops they purchase. Good will and sales are intimately related busi­ness objectives, and the sales staff must be trained to promote them simultaneously.

Characteristics of Customers

The type of customer to be served will depend first on whether the business is retail or wholesale. Retail sales are likely to be directed to homeowners and other nonhorticulturists who will purchase items in comparatively small quantities. Wholesaling usually means that the customers will be other industry personnel.

Although there are differences in the ways products and services are marketed to the retail and wholesale markets, wholesale and retail buyers are not as different as might be expected. Some know exactly what they want and only need assistance obtaining it. Others browse, surveying the entire inventory in order to generate an idea of what, if anything, to purchase. In between is the customer who definitely plans to purchase an item or two but is willing to purchase more if something looks interesting.

The second factor determining the type of customer to be served is the economic class toward which the business is directed. If the busi­ness is known for costly products and services, certain types of custom­ers will shy away and others will seek it out. If low-priced merchandise is promoted, the same is true. A business located in a middle-income neighborhood can expect to serve homeowners and amateur gardeners who seek good quality and familiar merchandise at affordable prices. A more affluent clientele will expect top quality and often unusual mer­chandise with attentive service, and expect to pay a premium price in return.

In any case, two motivations bring a customer to a horticulture business: need and desire. Need is the most direct motivation; it has an urgency about it. As soon as the customers believe they can afford the item or service, they move to satisfy the need by going to the shop or calling on the telephone. New homeowners might regard the estab­lishment of a new lawn and a foundation planting as a need for their property. They may have the desire for a maintenance firm to care for the landscape, but they may not be sure they can afford it. Still they may call for an estimate.