1-800-Flowers.com CEO Jim McCann Talks Customer Engagement

Even if you have stumbled in providing a good experience, that can be turned around by engaging your customers at a personal level, according to 1-800-Flowers.com CEO Jim McCann, who gave the keynote address at this week’s KANA Connect user conference.

McCann spoke about the company’s journey from a single flower shop in New York City 30 years ago to the world's largest florist, with revenues topping $700 million.

“Today we have 37 million customers,” McCann said. “We’re still trying to replicate that same kind of experience we had with customers [thirty years ago]. We don’t want them to just come to us when they want to do a transaction; we want them to interact with us in other ways.”

McCann explained that the company has seen four waves of business development: retail stores, 1-800 phone lines, getting online, and, now, social, mobile, and video interaction. First and foremost, McCann emphasized that 1-800-Flowers.com is not a technology company, and provided anecdotes about how the company’s missteps were transformed into success stories by engaging customers on a personal level. It is not only good business, but critical to engage customers through collaboration, McCann said.

In one instance, a picture of a bridal arrangement that did not match what was promised was sent to the company, and it was suggested that designs could be improved. From there, customers were invited to provide their input, and came up with arrangement ideas, suggested names, voted on the ideas, and created a marketing campaign. The result was called the Happy Hour collection, which offers arrangements such as the Green Apple Martini and the Margarita, among others.

“One of our customers said, “This is a product that needs to be seen, and it needs to be seen big,” so we decided to formally launch it and we did it market by market,” McCann said. “Today it’s the single biggest-selling product ever introduced in the floral category.”

1-800-Flowers.com is now firmly entrenched in its fourth wave, as McCann calls it, and the notion that building a business combined with a human touch remains more critical than ever, be it through mobile or social channels. McCann believes that mobile devices are “the remote controls of our lives,” and the challenge for the company’s customer care organization is to be able to provide the same reliable and memorable experiences across every service channel.

“Everything we do now is through our mobile devices, the way we interact, the way we consume news,” McCann said. “In a customer-centric culture like ours, instilling trust and convenience as you grow your business is imperative. Today's 24/7 consumer culture demands that technology be your ally. Make sure customers can reach you there in an instant. Don't pass them to another channel. Assist them right then and there.”

McCann said that the company strives to have its employees treat customers in such a way that they’re incited to write a letter about how well they’ve been cared for, and to that end, on average, it responds to social posts in less than a minute.

“It’s important to reach customers wherever they are,” McCann said. “Consistency counts. At 1-800-FLOWERS, it is our job to make it easy for customers to act on their thoughtfulness wherever they wish to engage with us—in a retail store, online, on their mobile device, or within their social networks.”