Training is key. It is very important to train your staff on how to communicate with customers and how to handle situations that may arise. My business is small enough that I am the one who directly deals with vendors and clients 99% of the time. I make sure to offer great customer service during those interactions. But in the case a vendor asks one of my designers a question on-site during the wedding set up, I have trained them on how to communicate. If you have a larger business where staff will very often come into contact with customers, then they should be trained effectively on how to communicate to provide great customer service.
As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adri Smith.
Adri Smith, founder, and director of Moss Floral was a child when her love of flowers began. At the beginning of each spring, she would sit in her mother’s garden, smelling the hyacinths and admiring the irises. In 2008, while planning her wedding, Adri worked closely with her florist, who’s creative designs and impressive service re-ignited her passion for beautiful florals. After the wedding, she turned this positive experience into the start of her own business, and in 2012, Moss Floral was created.
When Adri believes in something and sees a vision, she goes all in. Adri always aims to exceed expectations. With her vast experience, outstanding client recommendations, networking, and additional exposure, Adri has been able to style high-end weddings, train multiple interns with the same passion, and travel to Tuscany to teach a floral workshop.
The determination, hard work, and customer service Adri provides has scaled her award-winning business to multiple 6 figures, while she travels the world and does what she loves.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Yes! I was an elementary school teacher for 7 years and during this time, while I loved my students, I just didn’t feel like it was my true, “calling,” I felt like I should be doing something else. So, when I started planning my wedding, I became close with my florist and really enjoyed the process of choosing my flowers. Something during that time sparked an interest, and it snowballed from there. I started to make arrangements at home, and then soon after decided that I was going to start my own floral business. The rest is history!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The biggest mistake that I made was actually on my very first wedding. I was still teaching but took off Wednesday through Friday so that I could prepare for the Saturday wedding. This was a full-service wedding, meaning that there were bridesmaids, altar flowers, 20 centerpieces, etc. Everything was going well, and I felt good about where I was on Thursday, having made half of the arrangements. Well, one of my weaknesses is that I am a procrastinator, and one thing that I’ve learned from owning a business is that your weakest traits will come out as you are running it. So, Friday rolls around, and at about 1:00 pm I run-up to the church to decide how I am going to design the pew arrangements (an example that I should have done this sooner). When I walk in, the mother of the groom runs up to me and says, “Oh my gosh, where have you been? We were wondering when you were going to get here!” Turns out that the wedding was actually that day, Friday, and not Saturday, as I had thought! So, I told her to hang tight and I would be right back. I drove as fast as I could back to my house and called everyone, I knew to come to help me finish all the arrangements that I had to make. I have never been more afraid and stressed out. It was a madhouse, but we managed to get everything finished and delivered (except the pew arrangements) to the church by the 4:00 pm start time. Since then, I always make sure to highlight any Friday or Sunday weddings that I have in my calendar!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Yes, for sure I can. Toan, the florist I hired for my own wedding, was very helpful in the beginning. When I started my business, I didn’t know anything about floral design, especially how to construct floral pieces for garlands, installations, etc. I taught myself and watched YouTube videos along the way. When I was desperate to know how to mechanically design something (make the framework) for harder pieces, I would call Toan. She was very helpful, and she was also always insisting that I charge my clients appropriately. I thought that since I was a beginner, and lacked confidence, that I should charge low. She vehemently explained to me that my time is worth something. My time away from my family should be compensated for. This was a hard lesson to learn, and it took many years to start charging my worth, but I finally got there. I think a lot of beginner florists struggle with this. It’s important to know that if you undercharge, you’re actually bringing “down” the whole industry because top florists are not going to be able to charge their worth if everyone is undercharging.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
I believe that great customer service is vital for a business’ success because, in order to stay competitive, you have to have great customer service. There are so many options for people now! Buyers can look online for alternatives, and search for competitors very easily. Plus, in today’s world, there are so many different platforms where customers can leave reviews. One bad review can turn off potential clients or make them feel uneasy with using you as their florist. As for my industry, I think it’s important to give great customer service because while planning a wedding is such an exciting experience, it can also be very confusing and stressful. My job is to make it easier for brides to go through the process, and to communicate the process and what we do effectively.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
I can’t speak for other companies, but I do feel that if you have apathetic workers, then somewhere along the line, a customer will experience poor customer service. If I witness or sense apathy or a bad attitude from a designer, then I do not invite them back to work with me on other events. I absolutely do not want that negativity in my business.
I think it’s important to train your workers on how to communicate with all the people they may come into contact with at an event. This may include the bride, family members, or other vendors who are also working on the event. I try to make sure that I communicate to my team how they should respond in case one of the ones mentioned above asks a question. I want everyone who comes into contact with my company to have a good experience. Since my company is relatively small, the designers I work with regularly know how important customer service is to me because they see how I interact with clients and mimic that. If workers have not been trained properly, or do not have the values communicated to them effectively, then I think you are going to have moments of poor customer service along the way.
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
Yes, I definitely think so! We have a lot of competition in the Dallas and Fort Worth area, which is great for brides in that they are sure to find a florist who is the perfect fit for them. Because of this, we have to stay on our “A” game to have a chance of earning their business. I recently heard from a fellow vendor that one florist in the area will use leftover blooms from her client’s bouquet to put in an ornament for the couple as a Christmas gift. I thought this was brilliant. Having competition pushes companies to offer customer service in a way that will set them apart from their competitors and leave a lasting impression.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
Honestly, I don’t think I have a particular story, but I have received feedback from brides and planners on why they chose us and thought our service was exceptional. I’ve had both brides and planners state they appreciate our timely response to emails because apparently it is normal for vendors not to respond in a timely manner in our industry. I try to respond to emails within 24 hours. I also put together extensive proposals when I am pitching a quote to a bride. I have received feedback from planners that their clients appreciate this as well. It definitely takes more time and energy to put proposals together that have various pages of photo inspiration, but I think it helps a client get a visual feel for the cohesive “mood” of their wedding florals.
Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
I do think these “Wow” experiences have ripple effects. They build trust with the wedding planners, who in turn, continue to send us business. When they see good customer service consistently, then they feel comfortable sending clients to us.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
- Know your values as a business. If you establish 1 or 2 key values that you run your business by (that you truly believe in), then all of your decisions will be driven by them. One of our values is “Every problem has a solution.” So, if a client comes to me with a problem, then I am going to do whatever it takes to find a solution for them. And if one of my designers comes to me saying XYZ happened and they don’t know what to do, then I tell them that there is a solution and we or they will need to figure it out.
- Training is key. It is very important to train your staff on how to communicate with customers and how to handle situations that may arise. My business is small enough that I am the one who directly deals with vendors and clients 99% of the time. I make sure to offer great customer service during those interactions. But in the case a vendor asks one of my designers a question on-site during the wedding set up, I have trained them on how to communicate. If you have a larger business where staff will very often come into contact with customers, then they should be trained effectively on how to communicate to provide great customer service.
- Show empathy towards your clients. This sort of goes with “the customer is always right,” but it’s a little different. In my business, where most of our clients are new to the wedding planner experience and do not know what to expect because they’ve never ordered wedding flowers before, it is important that I show empathy to their ideas, their vision, and their concerns. If they feel validated and heard, then they are much more likely to be receptive to different alternatives or information that I offer. If I come into a meeting with the mindset that this is supposed to be an exciting time for the bride and her family, then I am going to do a much better job communicating with them and giving them great service.
- Timely communication. If a client sees that I respond to their emails within 24 hours (more like within 2 hours), and I send their proposal within a couple of days, then that will already set me apart from some of the competition. That tells them that they are important and that they are going to be answered in a timely manner during their wedding planning process. I have had brides tell me “thank you” so many times for getting back to them quickly. They really appreciate that!
- Execute. In my business, it’s so important that we execute what we say we are going to do. If we say we are going to do a beautiful floral backdrop, then we better do that. If we don’t meet expectations, then it’s my job to sincerely apologize without excuses and ask them what I can do to make it right. We have one shot to get it right, and it’s my job to make sure that happens!
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
Yes, I think communicating to the client that their feedback is critical to your success and growth as a business and that it is greatly appreciated, makes them more than happy to take the time to write a review on Google, Facebook, and other platforms. People want to feel like they are doing something good, so if you tell them how much it means to you and your business, then I think they are happy to do that.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Great question! I think I would start a kindness movement. There is so much negativity in the world, especially on social media, so I think if I could start this kindness movement by doing 1 or 2 nice things for someone once a day, then that would have a ripple effect!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Our Instagram is @mossfloral and our Facebook is facebook.com/MossFloralDesignFW
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!