For Boite de Fleurs founder Tina Youkhana, thinking out of the box as a small business owner led her to the inside of a box. Seeing a need for more florist options in Phoenix, Tina started curating and selling flower arrangements in her garage—putting her bouquets in sustainable, attractive boxes that help the blooms stay fresh for longer.
But she didn’t stop there: As the business blossomed into a brick-and-mortar, Tina made both the boxes and bouquets customizable, so that everyone who orders her flowers has a memorable experience that’s unique to them.
“It’s exciting to us when other people are excited,” she said. “What makes us unique is we genuinely care about the experience that we are giving to our customers—not just the ones purchasing, but also the ones receiving the arrangement because they’re ultimately the end customer.”
As a small business owner, you have the advantage of being able to forge deep relationships with your customers through exceptional service or a customized product. Particularly in industries that serve special occasions, this personal touch can help you build a roster of regulars for years to come.
Below, Tina shares four ways she personalizes the customer experience—from curating her social media feed and customer service to responding to reviews.
1. Own your online presence
Today, the majority of customers will find your business online through social media or an online review platform like Yelp. That means that your digital presence is often their first impression of your business. One way Tina ensures this impression is long-lasting? Her social media feed and Yelp Page is overflowing with colorful, well-lit photos of bouquets—plus, photo captions that identify the store’s most popular offerings.
In the same way that curating shop windows can win over curious customers, posting eye-catching photos helps set the tone for the customer experience. In a recent survey commissioned by Yelp and conducted by Material, 47% of respondents said one of the factors that influences their ability to trust a business’s online presence is if they have photos of their storefront or service offerings.
This was the case for Yelp reviewer Reggie M., who discovered Boite de Fleurs online when searching for Mother’s Day flowers in Phoenix. He wanted something a little unusual and out-of-the-box—which led him to Boite de Fleurs’s social media feed. “I saw the arrangements, and they really got me,” he said. “It was like, ‘Okay, these pictures are all excellent.’ And that spoke to me.”
2. Customize your products or offerings
People come to small businesses for a product that meets their unique needs, not something that’s one-size-fits-all. At Boite de Fleurs, Tina has found success by tapping into rising consumer demand for personalized products: The shop special-orders flowers from its vendors, encourages customers to pick out their own colors, and even adds numbers and letters into its bouquets for anniversaries or birthdays.
“To me, that’s what it’s all about: making sure I can get whatever it is that the customer wants,” Tina said. “I just feel like that’s what people want nowadays. Everybody wants something specific, whether they’ve seen it online or somewhere else, or someone else has gotten something.”
Tina puts meticulous care into everything—from the quality of the product to the delivery process—so that each order is exactly what the customer has envisioned. This process takes longer and costs more, but Tina and her regulars agree: The customization is worth the higher price point.
“We make everything curated for the customer who’s ordering it. If they call in and want something specific, even if it takes us a day or two to make sure we get the exact flowers from our vendors, we make sure we do that because we want to deliver a great experience at the end of the day,” she said.
3. Personalize your customer service
Shopping at a small business isn’t always about the product or service; it’s also about the experience. Make it memorable by adding a personal touch to your customer service, such as greeting your regulars by name or giving customers a free item on their birthday.
Tina often curates personalized experiences in the store—allowing customers to pick their own flowers, for example—but she’s also open to special requests. When Yelp reviewer Reggie called ahead, asking if the staff could help his one-year-old son to pick out the perfect Mother’s Day gift for his wife, Tina’s team not only cleared out the store to help his son choose flowers, but also took photos to capture the moment.
Reggie said that memory is one he’ll cherish forever—and also cemented his status as a loyal customer. “They gave me an experience, and they gave him an experience,” he said. “When my son walked in there, they catered to him. He picked out each flower that’s in that arrangement. It was memorable. It’s the kinda things that [mean] I’ll never buy flowers from anyone else.”
4. Respond to reviews individually
The customer experience doesn’t stop after a purchase. As a business owner, you want to make your customers feel valued, and responding to reviews can help you extend that feeling beyond a one-time sale. Just as you give customers personalized attention in-store, personalize your responses by mentioning a specific detail of something that they talked about in their review.
“People are gonna talk about you. It’s either gonna be on Yelp or any other platform, and you want to make sure everybody understands the vision that you’re trying to portray in your business, which is excellent customer service,” Tina said. “Whether they had a good experience or they didn’t, you want to always make sure you are following up with them to make sure that you get your point across and make sure that they understand.”
Plus, customers notice when you take the time and effort to respond to feedback. When Reggie saw Tina had responded to his Yelp review, he said it made him feel special as a customer.
“[On Yelp,] the business owners are the celebrities,” Reggie said. “So when the celebrity reaches back out to you to say, ‘Hey, that meant a lot,’ that encourages you to keep responding to, to keep writing, that what you do—it matters. And when I saw that, it felt like, ‘Okay, that’s my family right there.’ We had such a connection, and to see Tina with that reply, it was awesome.”
Interviews by Emily Washcovick
These lessons come from an episode of Behind the Review, Yelp & Entrepreneur Media’s weekly podcast. Listen below to hear from Tina and Reggie, or visit the episode page to read more, subscribe to the show, and explore other episodes.
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