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  • Help When It's Needed

    Sympathy sales tend to be a mixed blessing for florists. On one hand, it's a mainstay of business for most shops. And, on the other hand, it involves working with customers during one of the most difficult and taxing times of their lives. Chalifour's Flowers in Manchester, N.H., has made helping bereaved customers a mission.

    Sales Vision

    Trudy Abood and her husband created a separate room in their shop specifically for comforting sympathy customers. "Funeral customers deserve different care than your everyday customers," Trudy says.

    They always had a separate table for sympathy patrons but the space disappeared during the Christmas holidays when Chalifour's needed the area for holiday displays.

    Trudy felt uncomfortable when funeral customers were not receiving the same kind of service during this time period than they would in less busy, non-holiday times. "The last thing that's on their minds is Christmas or happier times. They shouldn't be subjected to the chaotic atmosphere holidays bring to your shop," Trudy says.

    When the Aboods saw an opportunity for expanding this area of their business, they took advantage of it. In 1994, they remodeled and increased the size of their shop from 7,500 square feet to 15,000, including a secluded area where they set up two caskets with full-sized silk arrangements on display.

    A Private Room

    Behind closed doors, customers feel more comfortable and are able to discuss the arrangements in privacy and without interruption.

    The room's lighting and ambiance is like that of a funeral home. Trudy says she has customers who just ask to be left alone in the room for a little while. It's a peaceful haven, where Chalifour's has tried to give a comfortable and warm atmosphere.

    Permanent Displays

    With the addition of the funeral room, Chalifour's is able to provide customers with a more realistic picture by using silks to create arrangements with flowers similar to what customers will be getting. By being as realistic as possible, Trudy makes the process of choosing flowers easier and eliminates misconceptions that customers had in the past.

    All of this effort makes customers more confident in Chalifour's ability to design flowers that will bring joy to a somber occasion.

    Product

    Four price points are given for each featured arrangement, giving customers a variety of options without creating the need for too many sample arrangements.

    Once an order is placed, the shop uses only the freshest flowers available since these arrangements receive more handling than normal. "You don't want a customer to see flowers that are wilting and dying while they are mourning the loss of a loved one," states Trudy. She never lets a customer leave without verifying that each flower is available for the funeral.

    Staff Training

    Chalifour's ensures that all customer-contact employees are trained to handle mourners. Trudy wants her employees to make each customer feel as if they have a friend at Chalifour's. The key is talking and listening to the customer. Employees are instructed to ask questions about the family, show a sympathetic side and offer to do anything for the family — anything at all. Although customers don't often take them up on the offer, it lets them know the staff at Chalifour's really cares.

    A funeral, like a wedding, is very important with no room for error. Chalifour's employees are taught to listen carefully to what the customer wants to avoid any mistakes. When a customer asks to be given some time alone during the store visit, Trudy's employees give it to them. Sympathy business is not a "hard sell" situation.

    The goal is to create an atmosphere where sympathy customers feel welcome and comfortable.

    Advertising and Image

    Chalifour's has been in the Manchester area for more than 50 years, so many people recognize its logo and colors. The shop's corporate identity is important to Trudy, and an effort has been made to put the shop's name in front of the city with packaging and advertising.

    Along with word-of-mouth advertising, Trudy places advertisements on the obituaries page of the local paper.

    Trudy works with several funeral directors in the Manchester area. The funeral homes recommend Chalifour's to customers, telling them about the funeral room inside the shop.

    Funeral business for Chalifour's is profitable because they focus first on treating each customer with care and compassion.

     

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