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Building customer relationships vital for evolving your business

Being in a fast-paced business, mass-market floral doesn’t easily lend itself to over-the-top customer service. Just having the fresh items we offer in stock is, in itself, a great service. But time restraints, store labor and departmental hours can hinder our relationships with customers buying fresh flowers. Having intentional customer contact is the first step to building those one-on-one relationships.

Intentionally building customer relationships is vital for evolving our business to the next level. Customers want to be treated well — they expect it today. You see it in all parts of retail — Amazon, Nordstrom’s and Southwest Airlines all have legendary guest service. Going above and beyond for our customers should be the norm.

BradleyGaines2013Bradley GainesThe quickest way to build customer relationships is to exceed customers’ expectations. Regardless of their past experiences, customers always remember someone going out of their way to help them in an incredible manner. These opportunities arise every day in our stores.

People love the sound of their own name. When we use a person’s name appropriately during a conversation, it tends to increase their attentiveness and lends a special importance to our information or request. To new acquaintances, it sends the message that they are important to us. This is a vital piece for building relationships with customers.

Knowledge is also fundamental in gaining the respect and dedication of our customers. Team members who know the care and handling, names and uses of the products they are selling give the customer confidence in the sale. Most team members will share care and culture with customers, but going beyond that, and giving the guest ideas or creative uses, is the added touch that exceeds the customers’ expectations. Suggesting or showing a Pinterest page or picture sparks the customers’ interest and involves them even more. Ask the guest to take a picture of the arrangement and show it to you the next time they’re in, that will add another layer to the relationship.

Verbiage is critical in communicating to the customer how important they are. Words like, “yep, no problem” or “not a problem” should never be used. It bothers me every time I hear team members say, “not a problem” — I didn’t know I was a problem to begin with. Words with negative connotations should be changed to, “absolutely,” “my pleasure,” and “certainly.” Customers should always leave your department with positive thoughts in their heads.

A polite “thanks and come back soon” is always a beneficial way to end an interaction. It should be like leaving your grandmother’s house — you probably never left her house without her asking you to come back real soon.

Building customer relationships is an intentional process. Strong relationships don’t happen overnight, they take time and focused attention. We know that in our personal lives, it should be the same in our professional lives.

Bradley Gaines is director of floral for United Supermarkets/Market Street in Lubbock, TX. He can be reached at or 806/472-5844.