Come through on your promise. Always be truthful and make sure that your promise is delivered. If you don’t you are setting yourself up for failure! You have to come through and you only have one chance to prove yourself.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nic Faitos of Starbright Floral Design. Heis a passionate business owner who prioritizes customer service above all else. It is because of his passion for customer engagement and service that he is the founder and owner of a local florist shop that has been around for more than 25 years. In 1994, Starbright delivered flowers exclusively to Manhattan hotels and restaurants. They were quickly recognized for their ability to blend seamlessly into the venue’s motif or to provide an amazing focal point of interest. This commitment to honor and abide by their client’s specifications and request led to a natural expansion of their flowers services for retail, corporate and institutional clientele. In addition to flowers, gifts and all of the related services that they provide, they also consult for corporate and personal events. For Nic, as a business owner, Starbright is an opportunity to demonstrate that in this cyber world we live in, a happy customer and word of mouth is still essential to building a successful business.
The family-owned and operated business has grown to 70 employees, starting as just a husband and wife team: Nic + Eva. Nic would be a great business owner to feature because he can talk about what it truly takes to run a successful service business — on the digital and the in-person side of things. It all comes down to customer service and Nic is as good as it gets! He can give real, actionable takeaways for business owners with real-life examples. Their mission statement, set on September 14, 1994 says it all: When the history books write the Starbright story, we will be judged kindly if we always remembered to do our best, give everyone we meet a smile and lead our industry with innovation, creativity, quality and service.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I was a broker on Wall Street for over ten years. My wife had a small flower shop in Long Island and I started hanging out in her store in my spare time. It turned out that I fell in love with what she did and I decided to take the leap from stocks and bonds to flowers!
In the beginning, I set up shop in NYC in a very small space and we were not even available to the retail public. That was 25 years ago in 1994. We started as a corporate and institutional florist where 100% of our focus was in targeting and serving our corporate clientele. Restaurants, hotels, businesses of all sizes were our audience and who we spoke to about the work we did.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
We thought we could be a florist without having any flowers! At first, we entered into an agreement with other flower shops who would take care of our orders and private label our work. This meant that we would be “order takers” and someone else would fill our orders and put our delivery tags and our logo on the flowers. Well, that worked well for a few months and then we discovered that if we did not have any control over the end product, our reputation would suffer! We were losing clients as fast as we were getting them and we could not figure out why. Within a year, by mid-1995, we had set up our own space, with our own designers and we got on track with our own work.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My family. After I took the plunge, there was no turning back and it was a family business. It still is. At the time, my son was nine years old. By the time he was 13, he started coming to the city with me and making deliveries and doing odd work inside the store on the weekends. It was a great start for him. He is now 34 years old and Stephen is my official business partner! My wife still helps in the store and my daughter who has her own career comes in on the holidays and helps as well.
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?
If you don’t serve your customers well, your competition will! The effort required to gain a new customer is monumental. Customers have choices and if they select to work with you they are only going to be loyal if you treat them right and if you are fair to them. It is much harder to find a new customer than it is to keep one you already have. The customer has taken a leap of faith, they have given you a vote of confidence by choosing to exchange their money for whatever service it is that you provide. The bottom line is that you want them to come back. You want the customer to never go out and look for a provider of a similar service to yours. I don’t want them ever looking for another florist. The only way to achieve that level of trust is by providing a level of service and an experience beyond the expected. Raise the bar to a level where no one can compete with you.
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 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 honestly have no idea. It all starts at the top and it is all about the commitment to a great experience for your customer. If the culture of the organization permits a lack of sincere care for the customer, the business will not survive.
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?
In today’s market, with the consumer having as many options as they do, absolutely. The customer has never been more in control of the experience than they are now. That is why giving the unexpected is the best way to retain clients. The best in their respective fields will always thrive in these markets and in these conditions. They say “keep your eye on the ball” — well, switch the metaphor around and forget about the ball. “Keep your eye on the customer.” That is where your focus should be. Never waiver.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
Guys are forgetful. We all know that. Someone placed an order with us for an anniversary and the order came to us at the last minute. He was having dinner with his girl and realized it was their anniversary during dinner! She thought it was an anniversary dinner but it really was not! He looks for a florist on his phone, finds us. Turns to our live chat feature from the men’s room and just as dessert was being served, the flowers arrived! Guess who has a customer for life?
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
It absolutely did! As a joke, every year a week before his anniversary we call him! There is always a chuckle on the phone and we always send the flowers for him. Turns out that he is a lawyer at a major law firm. Guess which florist now does the flowers weekly in the reception area of the firm?
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.
- Listen to your customers. We always tell the story that we have two ears and one mouth so we can do twice as much listening as we do talking.
- Find out what the customer’s expectations are. Get the customer to tell you what they want. Listen (go back to rule 1) and then to make sure that you understood what they said, and to prove you were listening, rephrase it and say it back to them. “If I understand you correctly, you are looking for XYZ. Is that right?”
- Set the bar for the customer higher than they set it themselves. Offer more than they expect. Now all you have to do is offer them XYZ+1! The +1 is your WOW. This is what will keep them loyal to you. This is where you will emotionally invest your client in your success.
- Come through on your promise. Always be truthful and make sure that your promise is delivered. If you don’t you are setting yourself up for failure! You have to come through and you only have one chance to prove yourself.
- Follow up with the customer and make sure that they are happy. We always send a “thank you” note that is highly personalized within 2–3 weeks, the latest, after the transaction has been completed. This shows we care and it reiterates our commitment to a great experience with the customer. The relationship does not end after the first transaction. It has only just begun!
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?
Your customers are your best advocates. Make sure that they tell your story. The customer has a huge reach and the megaphone is like no other. We will go to great lengths to make sure that we are remembered by what we did and that word of mouth spreads.
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. 🙂
Give of yourself freely in any area that you believe in. Do it with gusto and a passion. You have to be passion-driven no matter what you do. My favorite quote: “No man is an island. None goes his way alone. What you put into the lives of others comes back into your own.”
How can our readers follow you on social media?
On all social media platforms, we are @starbrightnyc. We are most active on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You will also find us on Linked In, Google, and of course Yelp! Our web address is www.starbrightnyc.com.