If you will be joining a wire service, research what computer equipment you will need. If your business plan includes Internet sales or email sales of any kind, budget for the equipment you will need. Some suppliers use email as a way of communicating their availability. If email correspondence comes naturally to you and you will reliably communicate over the Internet, include your email address on all publications and advertisements you do for your business. Most banks offer internet banking, a computer with reliable internet access will be crucial if you choose to take advantage of this time saving solution.
Don’t forget internet service. It is very important that you do not use your phone line for internet access. Your customers need to be able to call you with no waiting and no hassle. Most customers, especially first time customers, will hang up and call the next name in the phone book when they get a busy signal or an answering machine.
Fax & Phone..
This will come as a surprise for entrepreneurs from other industries where fax machines have become nearly extinct with the advent of the internet..A fax machine is essential at this time in the florist world. Suppliers use the Fax machine to send flower, plant and supply availability. They also use them to advertise specials. Wholesalers, for the most part, do not have catalogs. Their inventory and prices change at such a rapid rate, and wholesale margins are low, so producing a catalog is not a financially viable option. You will need to rely on the daily and weekly faxes from your wholesalers to let you know what is available and what prices are running.
Last but not least, now, about phones. Consider an extra phone line or two… depending upon your business plan. Set up a back up system in case your customer cannot reach you on the first try… an answering machine or voice mail system of some sort. Make sure the message is clear, brief and the system is easy to use. Be certain to return calls promptly and professionally. Have at least 2 messages, one for when you are open but cannot take the call personally and one for when you are closed. Because funeral orders happen at all times of the day, night and week, be sure to offer a way for customers to leave an order or get in touch with an order taker… if this service is a part of your business plan.
When I was working in wholesale sales, I could tell you which shops badly needed an extra phone line. Wholesale salespeople call their clients at least once a day, if not more. When I would get a busy signal over and over and it would take more than an hour to get in touch with a client, I knew that their customers must be having similar difficulties. Smaller shops have a hard time justifying the expense of a second phone line, but I can tell you that those are also the shops that don’t grow or succeed.
You can purchase phone equipment from local big box retailers or from office supply stores with varied success depending upon your requirements. It is worth the investment to purchase the correct phone equipment the first time. I have used Hello Direct as a vendor of phone equipment. Their knowledge of phone systems and their ability to keep track of your phone system for you is invaluable.