The Florist Who Sends Flowers

My daughter “graduated” third grade a few weeks ago. They move up to a new building, so there’s a little ceremony. Which she forgot to tell me about. Until that morning. *sigh, such is the life of a 9-year-old*

We chattered excitedly about it on the way to school, and I promised to rearrange my world on no notice to be there. On the way to work, I started thinking about the importance of this milestone. Flowers. I’d have to leave early to get her a little bouquet at my favorite florist. Thanks goodness they’re on the way to the school.

At work, the first person I spotted got to hear the tale of the surprise graduation. “You have to get her flowers. All the other parents will, and she’ll feel singled out if you don’t.” Yes, I know. Already planning that. “Where are you going to go?” The little place, you know the one… I like them a lot. Always go there for roses for her skating exhibitions.

“Listen, you’ve got to go to my florist. She’s great. She’ll do anything for you. You can’t just show up, though. Call in advance. I’ll give you her number. No, here, I’ll call for you. She’ll have them ready, and you won’t have to leave too early to get there.” I want to get a few small bunches for some of the teachers who’ve been really important to her. They’ve been through a lot right along with us. I figured I’d go in and look around like I usually do.

You know when you haven’t had enough caffeine and the other guy’s had too much? This was such a moment. I’m a nice person, so I listened to her story.

Raving Fans: Organic Word-of-Mouth Does the Work for You

“I use them all the time. Anything from a thank-you bouquet [and I thought Knowts were a special touch!] to a housewarming to a funeral. When I was single, I used to send flowers to myself every Friday. Just to tell me I was special. [Note to Self: Buy me flowers.] She was so nice about it, always just putting the last touches on as I walked in after work, always a little chat. I’d send flowers to my husband before we were married, to embarrass him at work. You name it. My husband bought me the biggest bouquet when my first daughter was born.

“When my second daughter was born, she sent me flowers. How do you like that? She’ll get you set up. Let me call her for you.”

So of course, I did. Before that story, it was just another team who puts together a mean bouquet. The Florist Who Sends Flowers? I’m not really into being acknowledged, but hey, that’s somebody who goes the extra mile for her customers. My friend, the raving fan, called and had five bouquets readied for me.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Mamas…

At 12:30 I left to pick up the flowers, an hour before the graduation. Plenty of time for the drive, a chat with the remarkable florist, and I’d still get a nice seat to take photos of my beaming young lady. At 12:45, a half-mile from the florist, a young woman pulled out of a parking lot and made a left turn going south, straight into the front of my northbound car.

And that, as they say, was the end of the fun. My car wasn’t too bad off. Hers appeared to be totalled. I really, really didn’t care, because all I wanted to do was make it to my daughter’s graduation. Rounds of calls, then the long, silent wait for the police to arrive.

When I say long wait, try imagining your little one in tears, thinking you’ve abandoned her. Try imagining paying for therapy years later so she can get over this tragic moment. Then try imagining you are in Delaware, and the day is a cool 98°F. There is no shade where you are stuck, your head is feeling funny, and your summery goin’-to-a-graduation dress is welded on to your body with sweat. This half-hour wait was no ordinary half-hour wait.

The flowers! After about 25 scorching minutes, I remembered that someone besides me might be thinking of me at that moment, and by now, probably tapping her toes. My friend who ordered the flowers might have her reputation besmirched by my not showing up. So I dug out the phone number, and I called the florist. I explained what had happened, and this delightful lady sat on the phone with me, making sure I was okay, and asking if there was anything she could do to help. She stayed on the phone until the police arrived (not to hold my hand, it just worked out that way). She told me not to worry, and said it was so thoughtful of me to remember her when I had bigger things on my mind. She said flowers or not, it would be a lovely day, and maybe I’d make it in time after all.

Yes, the police officer took forever to arrive. She spoke to the other lady first. When she finally talked to me, I told her how if the car was drivable I almost didn’t care, because all I wanted to do was make it to my little girl’s graduation, which by this time was only five minutes off, but fifteen minutes away. She was kind, and cared, and boy, was she fast. I haven’t had an accident since I was a teen, but it seemed to me that once we spoke she moved things along at record speed.

All’s Well That Ends Well, and the Florist Gets New Business

Happy ending, folks. I got to see the important part, the little lady crossing the stage. She saw me, so she knows I was there for her. Therapy (for that) was averted. The photos are awful, because it was standing-room only by the time I got there and I was a very sweaty, very exhausted person by then, who couldn’t hold the camera steady. But there are photos. Happy ending.

Considering how to design the best Experience for your customers? Send flowers. Not literally, though that’s nice, too. No, I mean exceed expectations. Provide delight. Your customers will praise you for years (the baby she sent flowers for is fourteen now), and your business with grow. That’s still not enough. Be human. The florist could have said, “Okay, thanks for the call,” and got back to her work. She didn’t. She listened, she empathized, she gave a bit of unsolicited support to someone who probably did need it (though she’d rather not admit it). She treated me, ironically, just the way I’d treat someone who called me in this situation. She gained a fan from someone who’s never met her, and never given her a dime.

I haven’t had an occasion to buy flowers in the weeks since that day (shame on me, read my note to self above!). I’ve sent three other customers her way, though, by telling this story. And you can bet that when I’m ready to embarrass my future husband at work, it’ll be roses from The Florist Who Sends Flowers.

Exceed expectations. Be human. How can you create a story that fans will tell about you, to spread the word for your company?

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson