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In pursuit of e-commerce wow

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Delivering a world-class customer experience is the key ingredient to becoming a leader in e-commerce. This is especially the case in smaller economies like South Africa where customers are more valuable and need to be treated with great care. This is according to SA Florist founder Nicholas Wallander.
He says e-commerce companies need to offer exceptional service if they are to attract and retain customers. “South Africa doesn’t have the huge potential customer volumes you might expect if you were in the US or the UK, so new customers are valuable and need to be treated accordingly.”
Traditionally, South African e-commerce has been dominated by a handful of large players. They did as they like due to lack of competition and very high barriers to entry such as high cost of warehousing, inventory, logistics and fulfilment.
“How many times did you order something for it to be delivered but learn after the transaction that it was actually out of stock and would be delivered at a later date,” asks Wallander. “When we entered the florist sector in 2013 we decided to provide the best customer experience in our sector and to use technology to help us achieve that.”
To gauge customer experience, SA Florist launched its Customer Experience Barometer in November 2015, which allows it to dynamically track and score its customer experience. It then publishes all reviews, aggregates the scores and presents this as a dynamic score on the home page of its site. This score gives its customers confidence that SA Florist delivers orders with the relevant care and attention.
“SA Florist is an online marketplace for the florist industry rather than a pure retail site and our customer’s experience having trusted us with their important purchase is our number one priority. We believe that each flower order is an emotionally charged purchase and needs to be treated as such. It’s not just a plain and simple online order,” explains co-founder Fraser Black.
“How slick was our checkout? Did the customer manage to navigate to what they wanted without getting lost and within just a couple of clicks? Were they supported every step of the process? And more importantly, did the flowers get to where they wanted them and when they wanted them? These are the bits that build the customer’s experience and go beyond the normal well-priced, beautifully arranged product,” he adds.
This is achieved via SA Florist’s customer and florist ratings and reviews algorithm. Basically, the back-end algorithm scores each florist on every order they fulfil. It notifies SA Florist how long each florist takes to reply to each order, how long it takes for them to fulfil the order and how long it takes until the order is delivered to the customer.
“It goes without saying that our best performing florists naturally receive the lion’s share of our orders as they are helping us deliver the best online customer experience in our sector,” says Black.
The reviews and ratings happen at both the florist as well as the customer end. Once the order has been delivered, the customer is sent an email asking them to review and rate their experience. SA Florist then publishes all reviews on the site and its algorithm then scores these reviews dynamically and publishes a score out of five.
“We list every rating, good or bad and post them at the top of our homepage for everyone to see. Any rating lower than 3.5 gets investigated by our team and resolved immediately. Our overall customer experience rating is something that we are extremely proud of. It’s reassuring, not only for SA Florist, but also for our customers, in that we are all of the things that we claim to be,” adds Wallander.
SA Florist strives to deliver a “wow” customer experience, an aggregated score of 4.6 out of 5 or higher. Based on 1 446 live customer reviews, its current Customer Experience Barometer score is 4.5 out of five which puts it in the ‘Excellent’ rating range.
“We are therefore a mere 0.1 score away from delivering on our ‘WoW’ customer experience. Since launching, we have attracted only two genuine complaints on HelloPeter.com website whereas our major competitor has 73% of their reviews being considered negative,” he adds.
Wallander says a world-class customer experience is at the core of everything they do at SA Florist. “From our adverts and mailers, the look and feel of our website and the efficiency of our check-out, the quality of our products and pictures, our prices, our customer service, our passionate partner florists and our 100%