You know the old expression, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” For phone sales at retail flower shops, that adage is especially true…which is why it drives Sam Bowles, FSC, of FloralStrategies LLC, bananas when he hears florists botching clear invitations from customers to connect on an emotional level — and missing out on higher sales in the process.
“You have to train your staff to be warm and welcoming to the customer,” said Bowles, also the manager of Allen’s Flowers in San Diego, to a packed crowd last weekend during the Society of American Florists’ 1-Day Profit Blast in Boston. “Too often even generally pleasant people go straight to taking the order information.”
The difference between a salesperson who is responding empathetically and making suggestions specific to the gift-giving occasion and a person who is only inputting delivery and payment information is the chasm between an expert and an order-taker. And customers today who take the time to call a retail florist are expecting expertise, Bowles said.
“Think about it as fast food versus fine dining,” he said. “You don’t expect a fast food cashier to make suggestions and, in fact, the cashier might feel annoyed if you as the customer started asking for recommendations: ‘I don’t know. What do you recommend, the tenders or the nuggets?’ But at a nice restaurant, you expect the waiter to tell you the specials and to offer ideas based on what you like.”
Other tips from Bowles’ presentation:
Language Matters. It may seem obvious, but you should train your staff to respond to customers when they share the reason for an order. (The card message is an ideal signifier.) “Everyone thinks they do this, but trust me, based on thousands of calls that I’ve made for FloralStrategies, most people aren’t actually commenting on the occasion,” Bowles said. His suggestion for a birthday order? “Great my name is Sam! You’ve chosen the right place. We’re going to take care of you.” Another go-to for any happy occasion: “Oh that’s so sweet! I bet this is going to make their day.”
Put on the Peer Pressure. Allen’s saw Valentine’s Day sales growth on orders for Feb. 13 (not the 14th) in part because Bowles trained his team to use a magical phrase with Romeos looking for guidance: “Here’s what most guys are doing this year.” From there, the team proceeded to tell the customer about a Sweetheart Special that included finishing touches (chocolates, balloons), arranged roses and delivery ahead of time “so she can enjoy the flowers longer.”
Take Your Time. Customers expect a fast experience but remind your team that details matter. Take the extra time to double-check that Katie is not Katy and Annabelle isn’t Anabel. Your customer (and their recipient) will notice that mistake.
Save Customers’ Time. Speaking of time, “offer to do the legwork for customers,” Bowles said. Contact funeral homes for service details. Work with hospitals to get deliveries right. “You can emphasize your expertise by saying, ‘Don’t worry. We work with them all the time. We’ll handle that for you,” Bowles said.
Read more customer service tips from FloralStrategies every month in Floral Management’s Tim’s Calling column.
Ready for additional sales and service tips specific to Mother’s Day? Bowles hosted “Master Online Reviews,” a free 30-minute webinar for SAF members, on April 3. You and your team can still access the session.
While you’re on the site, you can also review today’s session “Create and Implement Sales Boosting SEO” with Eric Wu of BloomNation. And, mark your calendar for Part III of this Mother’s Day Digital Strategies series with a session on Instagram best practices, headed by Jackie Levine of Central Square Florist in Boston on April 17 at 2 p.m. EST.
Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management magazine.