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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Understand Your Customer

Keep customers coming back by surprising them which how much they get for a reasonable price and nearly no effort.

Key Question:


Bill says that Internet users are demanding consumers. If you sell a product from the Internet, it better be exactly what the customer ordered, it must arrive when the customer wants it, and, it must be competitively priced.

What steps did Bill take to insure near perfect customer service?

First, Bill discovered that many of the FTD florists could not deliver. When the customer sees a picture of a floral arrangement on the computer screen and orders that particular arrangement, the florist must deliver exactly what the customer saw on the screen. Bill found that many florists would substitute containers or one flower for another. Through experience, Bill formed his own delivery system by using only 10% of the florists in the network. This means that England's is the only florist he uses in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Another customer service tactic is the push-pull technology.

This means the customer doesn't have to perform many key strokes. It is easy to navigate the site and the order form is simple to use.

His own employees are located at the FTD Mercury Network office, and, they work with software Bill developed for his business, not what was already in place. To increase the amount of time his customers can enjoy their floral purchase, Bill has established relationships with growers. As in the example on the tape, customers can order bunches of flowers which come from the growers by way of a warehouse in Miami. These flowers may last up to three times longer than ones ordered from the local florist. 

Think about it

What keeps your customers coming back?  Do you know what percentage of your business comes from repeat customers?

Clip from: PC Flowers & Gifts

Stamford, Connecticut:  Bill Tobin has always risen to a challenge. He's always been an entrepreneur. When FTD Florist told him to go away, he began looking to find a way to take over. He said, "I had to do it. I had to do it. Everybody said it couldn't be done. Everybody said, `It won't work.' "

When this episode of the show was taped, Bill Tobin was selling more flowers than any one person in the world. He started PC Flowers and Gifts in 1989 and by 1996 he had become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in cyberspace. Though he sold the business to Figis, he continues to leverage his knowledge with strategic cyber partners throughout the world.  
Among other things Bill established over 2,700 co-branded web sites. In 2000, Bill was awarded a patent for web co-branding protocols. 

PC Flowers & Gifts

Bill Tobin, Founder

134 Davenport Circle
Stamford, CT 06902

Visit our web site:

Business Classification:
Internet Sales

Year Founded: 1989

Understand Your Customer

BILL:  I did research that showed that in the United States, men won't send men flowers and women won't send men flowers.

(Voiceover) And men and women won't send children under 13 flowers. And what we allow you to do is build your own balloon arrangement on the screen, and how you build it is how we download it, is how we deliver it. And it's delivered through my floral infrastructure. All my local florists have the ability to do balloons. They love it because you don't have to have a designer, it's not a live product.

(Voiceover) And consequently, I ship one balloon arrangement for every four flower arrangements.


BILL: Now there's a co...

HATTIE: All right, let's choose something--in fact, Quin, my producer he has this wonderful mother and she always does nice things for us.

So I think that we should order some flowers and I'll use my credit card and we'll do it right now, and we'll send them to Billie in Dallas, Texas, because we're sitting now in Somers, New York, and Bill's running his business out of an IBM office just that we've borrowed.


HATTIE: What is this?

BILL: This is a superbatch.

HATTIE: Superbatch.

BILL: This is something that's really a lot of fun.

HATTIE: Let's do the superbatch.

BILL: And she'll love this, and I'll tell you why. Each month, a grower says to me, `I've got five different kinds of flowers that we have an excess in abundance of from last year in the fields right now and we're going to ship those into Miami.' So we'll put together five different kinds of batches together and these are probably $90 worth of flowers at retail. You'll get a videotape with a booklet--videocassette and booklet enclosed which show you how to care for and design your flowers are part of this program.


BILL: And so we'll now place our order.


BILL: And this tells you that you have requested a secure document.

This document and any information you send back are encrypted for privacy while in transit. You know, I hear a lot about the perceived problem of security on the Internet and I can tell you that it is just perception and it has been fostered by a negative spin that the media puts on it because it sells.

Negativism and scary stuff sells.

HATTIE: Right. Right.

BILL: But I can tell you what we're going to do right now with your credit card is a far sight safer than giving this credit card to the waiter to take into the kitchen to run it for anybody else to see or to pick up the telephone and give to an operator located where who's going to put it into a database that who knows has access to it. I mean, for us to do this through an encryption is so far more secure than the other traditional methods of ordering, I can't even explain it to you.

HATTIE: So it's a psychological problem we have.

BILL: It's perception.

HATTIE: OK. B-I-L-L-I-E... (Voiceover) We ordered the superbatch for Quin's mom and it arrived on time, straight from the grower, just when we expected it.

BILLIE: Hello.

Unidentified Woman #1: Good morning. How are you this morning?

BILLIE: Fine, thank you.

Woman #1: I have two packages for you.

BILLIE: Oh, great.

Ooh, aren't they beautiful?

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