A few months after moving to Long Island in 1974 I needed to buy flowers for a special occasion. The first neighborhood florist I ventured into (the closest to my home) was busy; very busy and I was young, impatient and on a mission. So, back in the car I went. Florists in 1974 were kind of like Travel Agencies in the early 1990’s; there was almost one on every corner, at least where I lived.

The second florist was relatively quiet. In fact it was without any customers. A young gentleman appeared from the back “prep room”. He offered a handshake, said: “Hi, my name is Ray” and pleasantries were exchanged. I learned that he had recently purchased the business. I bought some flowers, wished him luck and didn’t give it a second thought.

In between, for over 30+ years, Ray was my Florist. Ray did my wedding, Valentines Day, Mothers Day, Funerals…if I needed flowers, Ray was my “go to guy”. Over the years he got to know me, my tastes, and my customary price threshold on an “occasion by occasion basis”. In the early days of our relationship, while he was growing his business, Ray would pick up the phone and remind me if we were getting close to a special occasion and he hadn’t heard from me.

It was CRM in the purest of forms.

Over the years, Ray automated. I started getting emails instead of personal calls. As the years went by, the emails became graphically dynamic and they even allowed me the luxury of purchasing online; something I do often, just never did with Ray.

Why?

Because when I called for flowers be it 10, 20 or 30 years after our first transaction, Ray insisted on jumping on the call to say hi, catch up and basically keep the relationship valuable – to me. Ray made me feel like my business mattered; like I mattered.

Enter Heidi of Eden Florists in South Florida. I met Heidi at a Chamber of Commerce business mixer, once, about 5 years ago. She was a neat lady; outgoing with a shock of red hair and a passion for her vocation that permeated the room. We got to talking (notice a trend here, sales types?) and she asked me if I had a florist. I went on an “I love Ray rant”. She listened, smiled and handed me her card “just in case I ever got in a pinch”.

One of life’s many ironies unfolded shortly thereafter. In a subsequent order/conversation with Ray, I mentioned Heidi. He knew her! They met at a Florists Convention where she conducted a workshop. Ray was blown away by her passion, her zeal, knowledge and enthusiasm.

During the ensuing 5 years I ended up on Heidi’s mailing list for her business. I rarely opened the emails. I just smiled and admired her attitude and her foresight. Her email frequency was “just right”; often enough to remind me that she existed (even though I had no use for her services) but not overwhelming to the point where I considered opting out.

Recently, Ray sent a hand written note to thank me for my business, our friendship and to advise me that he had sold his business. I moved off Long Island over 8 years ago and the thought of using another Florist never crossed my mind. Until yesterday.

Valentine’s Day was looming and it would be my first without Ray in my back pocket in many years..

Guess who got my Valentines Day floral order?

I have a new Florist. Her name is Heidi. She took my call personally and thanked me for Joke of the Week (something I’ve been inflicting on a bunch of folks for over 6 years). Then she took my order.

Guess who will be getting my floral business for the foreseeable future?

Our Industry needs more Ray’s and Heidi’s. Hands – on CRM never goes out of style. Neither does a commitment to sales, marketing, personalized service and recognizing the value of a customer

xxx

Industry consultant Jim Smith, CTIE is President of Market Share, Inc and Brand Congruency. A 40+ year Business veteran, Smith’s company serves clients in the leisure travel and entertainment industries. He can be reached by email @ jim@jimsmithctie.com