headsets allow customer-service staff to converse on the phone while
pulling merchandise as requested to assemble a product, such as one of
Precious Memories’ signature gift baskets. “We can even walk into the
cooler to check for particular types and colors of flowers,” says Ms.
Memories’ system was purchased in 2006 as a package, including NEC
telephone hardware and PC-based software. Called Ultra CallAnalyst, it is a
call-accounting system that tracks both incoming and outgoing calls and
provides detailed analyses of the data. Ms. Thompson says that she
appreciates the many details she can sort and extract. “I can analyze
the number of calls per hour, day or week, and that gives me great
insight into when customers begin calling for each holiday and helps me
staff accordingly each year,” she explains.
feature Ms. Thompson loves is caller ID, the data from which is saved
for future reference. “If we ever have a problem with a phone number, we
can always get into the system and find the right number.”
caller ID features are not currently integrated with Precious Memories’
newly acquired FTD® Mercury™ point-of-sale (POS) system, Ms.
Thompson says an upgrade to the POS in 2008 will allow customer records
to be linked to their phone numbers. So when calls come in, detailed
customer histories will automatically pop up. (Read more about this feature in
the section on POS systems, Page 72.)
Call-accounting software offers a multitude of other features, but from
a sales standpoint, one that seems especially useful is tracking the
length of each call. This information can be used to determine
productivity by employee, day, holiday, etc. And from a marketing
standpoint, calls can be sorted by area codes, which provides insight
into geographic appeal.
A similar telephone system provided by Alternate Access, based in
Raleigh, N.C., is also sold as a package and includes an application
specifically for florists called FloralProfitCenter (FPC). This
system gathers data from all store locations and can track numbers of
calls, lengths of calls, etc., so a wide variety of call analyses can be
performed. FloralProfitCenter also can record calls. Using this
function, designers can hear customers’ exact instructions, if needed,
and recordings can be used for training purposes as well.
Adrienne Lumpkin, the company’s co-founder, explains that FPC
requires the TeleVantage phone system, which runs on a Windows-based
server. Currently, FPC integrates with several POS systems, and its
caller ID feature automatically pulls up customer records, so a complete
history is readily available.
“Analyzing calls can tell retailers a lot,” agrees Mr. Dion. “Knowing
call volume is important, and retailers can also learn about customer
service, such as how long callers are left on hold,” he points out.
“What gets measured gets changed, so retailers can set standards [and
measure if they’re achieved].”
Americans carry some type of mobile phone device, and huge numbers of
owners are using their phones for many purposes other than phone calls.
One of the most common uses is text messaging, which, among young
consumers, is the preferred form of wireless communication. (E-mail is
considered old technology by this group!) For floral retailers, a
multitude of uses for this widely available technology exist.
“Many flower purchases are last minute,” notes Mr. Dion. “Allowing cell
phone users to quickly text in orders would make ordering easier for
last-minute and impulse buyers.”
In addition, florists can use text messaging to contact customers,
including texting delivery confirmations and, if customers are
interested, sending reminders for purchase occasions. And since many of
today’s mobile phones are equipped with cameras, it’s possible to
photograph deliveries and send the images as multi-media text messages.
Most wireless providers offer low-cost text-message plans. Contact your
wireless phone company for information.
e-mailing some fun
consumers may value texted communications, electronic customer contacts
are most likely easier and more efficient via e-mail. As you’ll read
later, some POS systems can generate many types of e-mails
automatically, but if your POS isn’t among these, creating your own
e-mails can still be a timesaver. And these messages also can instill
confidence among consumers and create fun!
“Consumers love information, so messages, whether text or e-mail, can be
valuable,” says Mr. Dion. He recommends delivery confirmation sent via
e-mail. These can be basic form letters with a little customization for
each buyer. Some time will be required to create the basic letter and to
customize and send each one, but in the long run, these efforts will pay
First, delivery confirmation e-mails will eliminate customers’ phone
calls to check delivery status. They’ll also help customers rest assured
that now, and in the future, your shop can be counted on.
In addition, using a few basic tools, your e-mails can go multimedia,
which, undoubtedly, will impress your customers. Since most mobile
phones are equipped with cameras, Mr. Dion suggests that delivery
drivers snap quick pictures of recipients with their floral deliveries.
Drivers can upload these images to the shop, where e-mails can be
created and sent to buyers. “That contributes to the fun of flower
buying,” points out Mr. Dion. “Wouldn’t it be great to get an e-mail
where you could see the smiling face of someone to whom you had just
And with a relatively inexpensive digital camera, sales staff could snap
pictures and e-mail them to customers wishing to place orders over the
phone so customers know exactly what they’re paying for. This would be
most useful with cash-and-carry arrangements or menu items rather than
custom designs because the latter could lead to constant revisions. At
least one POS option, FloristWare, offers instant e-mailing of
images during the ordering process.
“People want to see what they’re ordering,” says Mr. Dion, so an e-mail
image can help sell a product and ensure that buyers are pleased with
their purchases. “Seeing the item beforehand would definitely cut down
on complaints,” he adds.
powerful pos systems
ticket processing to detailed routing and mapping with Global
Positioning System (GPS) interfacing, the latest point-of-sale systems
make the sales, delivery and “back office” aspects of the floral
business easy to navigate. Check out some of the great features now
available from various suppliers, including those mentioned before as
well as others (this list is not comprehensive). Check with your
favorite suppliers to ask about availability of these features and
Customized Fields “Florists should look
for systems that allow them to save and retrieve all kinds of customer
data and that enable them to add custom fields, like kids’ birthdays, as
needed,” relates Mr. Dion. Such customization is not available with
every system, so if you prefer flexibility, ask suppliers specifically
about this option.
Caller ID “Interfacing with caller ID is
equally important. The ability to access customer history while on the
phone with the customer is a powerful tool that every retailer should
have. It gives the impression of personal service; I call it ‘back to
the future,’ because it enables retailers to know and serve their
customers as they would have 80 years ago,” Mr. Dion explains of this
“Our staff love the immediate access to customer information,” says
Rick Interian, president and owner of Avant-Gardens in Miami,
Fla., whose POS system from MAS™ (McShan Abner Systems),
available from BloomNet, Inc., links incoming calls with customer
data and even cross-references phone numbers of recipients, so if a
recipient is already in Avant-Gardens’ database, his or her information
will pop up as well. “We also appreciate that customer ranking is part
of the information that’s retrieved,” Mr. Interian explains. “When they
call in, we automatically know our best customers.”
Caller ID functions are not currently available in all POS applications,
but some suppliers are working to develop interfaces with phone systems.
However, as Mary Ann Stewart of FloristWare points out, there
could be potential problems with linking phone numbers to particular
“We made a
deliberate decision to avoid instant access to customer data through
caller ID because privacy is a concern,” she says. “For example, if a
wife calls the florist from the home, and the husband had used that
phone to order flowers, the florist could accidentally share sensitive
information with the wife from the husband’s file linked to that phone
number,” she explains. If customers offer their phone numbers during the
ordering process, their files easily can be retrieved.
Easy E-mailing Other useful customer data that most POS
applications capture are e-mail addresses, and many systems will
automatically generate e-mail messages—for electronic receipts, delivery
confirmation, e-mail marketing and much more. John Higginson,
vice president of software development for FTD Group, Inc.,
reports that the Mercury system is capable of automatic e-mailing.
BloomNet’s MAS partner and other systems also have such capabilities.
Some POS systems also have features built in to generate quality e-mail
“Through our partnership with Constant Contact, Inc., florists can run
sophisticated marketing campaigns using their e-mail lists,” Mr.
Higginson shares. “Constant Contact provides professionally created
templates, or florists can create their own.” Constant Contact also
manages opt-out lists and filters so customers who decline to receive
such mailings are not included.
Delivery Helpers Many POS systems include
delivery sorting, routing and mapping, and some interface with GPS units
to provide turn-by-turn directions for drivers. Mr. Interian adds that
his system also provides address verification, to ensure that every
address is a good one.
Gift Cards and Incentives Another
much-appreciated feature is gift cards, which Mr. Interian says can be
purchased using his MAS system in any denomination and can be swiped
just like they’re processed at any major retailer. “Gift cards are
huge,” he relates enthusiastically, “and offering them makes us look
like a big retailer.”
Incentive (or loyalty) programs are easily managed with some POS options
as well. FloristWare’s system, for example, which offers a free trial
version and is available as a touch-screen option, “allows customers to
earn points on purchases that can later be redeemed for discounts or
free products,” notes Ms. Stewart.
information about gift-card and loyalty-card programs as well as service
providers, see “Gift Cards: A growing option for florists” beginning on
Page 113 in our July 2007 issue, or read it online at
High Speed Starting this year,
Teleflora’s Dove POS™ will join the high-speed revolution, enabling
florists to “send and receive orders faster and process credit cards in
as little as two to four seconds,” according to the company. With
high-speed versions, a dedicated phone line for the Dove system will no
longer be necessary, potentially saving florists a little cash.
Portable POS System One of the coolest
new technologies is the portable POS (PPOS) machine that has recently
emerged, especially at high-tech retail locations, such as Apple Retail
Stores. According to Mr. Dion, sales staff can use these to take
customers’ orders as they stand in line. “Portable POS is really useful
during times of peak business,” he recommends. Orders can be taken with
PPOS systems from anywhere in a store or even on the road, and receipts
can be printed from belt printers or from other printers in the store,
or they can be e-mailed to customers.
Mr. Dion reports that portable POS is available from many POS suppliers.
At press time, we could not confirm any floral suppliers; however, with
the obvious benefits, it’s sure to be on the horizon, and FTD’s Mr.
Higginson did confide that “future releases will make use of portable
devices for sales, service and delivery.”
cutting-edge web sites
Even if these
products are not currently in your technological or financial comfort
zone, keep them in mind for future expenditures. At the very least,
every florist should have a Web site, and many providers now offer a
host of customization and other capabilities. Mark Nance, aaf,
president of BloomNet, Inc., says his company’s sites soon will offer
mobile accessibility. “This spring, we will offer florists the ability
to accept purchases and push information over Web-enabled mobile
devices,” he explains.
Brent Sifford, of Digital Thoughts Interactive, says his
customers haven’t expressed much interest in mobile accessibility, but
it’s an option that easily could be added. What he does offer that is
perhaps unique is the seamless incorporation of products from multiple
wire services and The John Henry Company onto one customizable flower
shop Web site. “This provides flower buyers a convenient browsing
experience that brings all the products together in one location,” Mr.
But a Web site is just the beginning. If you want to reach new clients,
especially those in the 18-34 age range, the time will come when you’ll
have to reach out with a digital touch. The rewards will be worth it!
contact information for companies cited in this
Alternate Access and FloralProfitCenter
See ads on Pages
76 and 107.
Digital Thoughts Interactive
See ad on Page
FTD Group, Inc.
See ads on Pages
13 and 78.
MAS (McShan Abner Systems)
See ads on Pages
2 and 25.