How prioritising customer care helped our start-up shine
Recently named within Sherry Coutu's 'Scale Up Club', Bloom & Wild Co-founder Aron Gelbard shares four steps to fast-growth business success
Aron Gelbard is co-founder and CEO of Bloom & Wild, the UK’s first mobile and online florist to offer through-the-letterbox flower bouquets. Bloom & Wild launched in 2013 and raised a Series A round last year.
The business is a team of 25 based in South-West London, and sends several thousand bouquets of flowers per week across the whole of the UK.
Here, Gelbard explains how he went from start-up to scale-up and achieved fast-growth success by always putting the customer first…
In the years since co-founding Bloom & Wild, I’ve learned that you have lots of disadvantages as a start-up competing with established incumbents in an industry – they have large customer bases, established brands and more resources.
But the one advantage you do have is that you fundamentally care more about your customers. This is because you’ve put everything on the line for your business whereas for employees of your competitors, however passionate they are, it’s still their day job. I’ve found that putting this obsession with care at the heart of everything we do is something that our customers notice and comment on, and is also hugely motivational to our team. This may sound obvious, but it has taken us a lot of discipline to put this into practice as we’ve moved from being a concept (flowers through the letterbox) to a high-growth company with an ambition to become the UK’s favourite online florist.
I was recently invited to participate on behalf of Bloom & Wild to be a member of Scale Up Club, an initiative for promising high-growth young companies organised by Silicon Valley Comes to the UK, which also includes businesses like graze.com and language learning app Busuu.
In preparing for a series of roundtables with other start-up founders, I tried to crystallise how we put our care for our customers at the heart of everything we do and how this has helped us earn the title of a ‘scale-up business’:
1. Hire people who are passionate about creating something and delivering a fantastic experience
As a founder, you’ll always care a huge amount about your business. But you’ll stop being able to do everything yourself because there’ll be too many things to do and it won’t be good for your health! I also realised early on that there’s no one task or process that someone else on my team isn’t better than me at doing (the curse of being a generalist founder).
As you start to trust others with important jobs that are critical to your customers’ experience, you realise that you can only do so if they care deeply as well. I’ve found that people who are deeply excited about our mission, and that put in the effort and care to turn that mission into a reality, are the people we need on our team. And in fact, there’s a strong correlation between our best performing employees and those that seem to care the most!
2. Design your experience for how your customers actually shop
For Bloom & Wild, like almost all companies, a big part of our business is about mobile. Every business today is serving customers who are spending many hours per day on their mobile devices, including more mobile browsing time than desktop browsing time.
Any customer-centric experience needs to be easy for customers to use when and how they want to, and this has to include mobile. We obsess over every possible way to reduce the need to type on a mobile screen! As a start-up, another mini-advantage you have is that you aren’t encumbered by legacy IT systems and so you can more rapidly design a mobile first experience compared to a competitor whose existing infrastructure prevents them from doing so.
3. Understand and eliminate customer anxiety
The best thing you can do is talk to as many people as possible and understand how they feel when they need to make a transaction, and what makes them anxious. I once read an interview with Uber’s Travis Kalanick and he explained that Uber decided to eliminate the ability to leave a tip, and to instead build this into the price, because he didn’t want his customers to worry about whether to leave a tip, how much to leave and how this would vary across cultures.
In online flower gifting, the equivalent anxiety we unearthed was that customers worried that their recipients wouldn’t be at home to receive their flowers, and so they’d have to call them up and ruin the surprise, or risk the flowers being left in a recycling bin or such and potentially never arriving. This was our rationale behind designing packaging that allows flowers to fit through the letterbox.
4. Be obsessed with your customers and their feedback
One of the few advantages of your size as a start-up is that you can personally find ways of both listening to your customers and turning their feedback into a reality. I try to personally answer customer phonecalls or emails every day, and I regularly reach out to customers who have come up in our website’s error logs to understand what went wrong and fix it for them – this also helps me stay on the front foot and make sure we are resolving any technical or product issues really early on.
It’s so hard for a large organisation with many layers of management and process to replicate this and to make change happen quickly, so take advantage of it!