FarEastFlora.com Uses Technology to Cope with Business Surge and Remote Working
Ryan Chioh is customer-obsessed. As managing director of FarEastFlora.com, a leading online florist and gifting company here, his customers want fresh flowers to be delivered on-time and to the right location.
His challenge, however, was to find an enterprise-grade call centre solution at an affordable price to cope with his growing business and to respond to business changes quickly. New features he looked for include the ease of retrieving customer call recordings and remote working capabilities.
Retrieving call logs from the existing 15-year-old call centre setup was time-consuming. The process had to go through the system’s vendor, which meant a delay in attending to requests. Call recordings, he stressed, are essential to improve customer service, provide better service recovery and better conversations with customers.
Remote working was also crucial as it would make it more convenient for his employees, especially the older ones. It would also free up office space for operations.
With this in mind, he researched the market for new solutions. On top of the new features, cost, ease of use, and support were the main selection criteria for him. Then there was disaster recovery. He recalled an incident in 2006 when record-high rainfall caused flash floods, damaging his computer equipment.
“This was always at the back of my mind. If such a disaster occurred again, how quickly would I be able to reinstate operations?”
Then about a year ago, a friend introduced him to a local telecom startup. Crux Labs had an Internet-based call centre solution called Crux VX which offers small- and medium-sized businesses enterprise-grade Internet telephony-based call centre solution.
Mr Chioh was attracted by Crux VX which met his selection criteria.
Tried and tested in the last few months, Mr Chioh could not have been more satisfied with the new solution. It allowed his staff to work from home and still ably managed the brisk business generated during Valentine’s Day, which occurred as the coronavirus pandemic started spreading in Singapore.
The solution was robust as it easily coped with spikes in customer orders, simple to use and affordable. His operations team can access call recordings easily, improve business operations through performance reports and allow for automatic call distribution when there are concurrent calls.
Said Mr Chioh of the implementation: “Crux VX was easy to install, just plug and play, and the call centre staff can get working straight away.”
FarEastFlora.com rolled out the new system in November 2019. "We did a trial run from Christmas to Valentine's Day when online orders and calls usually go up. The system didn’t crash.”
It gave him confidence as he gradually cut over from the old system to Crux VX. When the coronavirus pandemic spread to Singapore just before Valentine’s Day, there was a moment of anxiety.
"We get thousands of calls, and there will be many, many concurrent calls. This period would be the key test for the system."
Valentine’s Day operations were doubly complex. The surge in orders was accompanied by sudden changes in delivery instructions as customers discovered their loved ones were not at the office but working from home. As it turned out, the system worked well, and customers were generally satisfied.
With WFH mandated by the government during the Circuit Breaker, FarEastFlora.com gave each staff an IP phone to make and receive calls from home. As it turned out, there was little to be concerned. Operations smoothly transited to remote work without any hiccup. Call productivity even increased, Mr Chioh added.
(Mr Chioh visited one of his senior call centre employees - she's a septuagenarian - to show us how she's now doing her work, safely at home.)
Crux, founded by Rohit Gupta three years ago, aims to provide enterprise-grade telephony systems to small- and medium-sized enterprises at affordable price. Its call centre solution can provide call recordings which are essential to sales teams who need to monitor customer engagements. Call centre agents could work in different locations too.
Said Mr Gupta, "We aim to offer SMEs affordably-priced call centre solutions. Customers pay a fixed price for differently sized systems and a one-time setup charge. There are no monthly recurring costs.”
(Mr Gupta at the launch of Crux Labs at CommunicAsia 2018.)
Crux VX can also be linked to existing ERP and CRM solutions, keeping manufacturing and operations teams updated on orders. In FarEastFlora.com’s case, orders are generated automatically, so are the bill of material. The operations teams know the type of bouquets to be prepared, then stored in the cold room and readied for same-day delivery.
For call centres with 30 agents, the Crux VX starts at $12,000 one-time charge. Customers install a small device no bigger than a Penguin-sized book which is then plugged into the Internet. According to Crux Labs, the savings for Crux VX is between 30 and 80 per cent in monthly telecom bill.
Entry-level solutions for office staff allow Internet telephony and remote working capability. Prices start from $999 plus a one-time setup charge. Currently, Crux has about 70 customers, mostly in Singapore, and is working on expanding its operations in Southeast Asia.
As for Mr Chioh, he is now convinced that the system works and is easy to install. Over the past 20 years, the company had relocated once or twice. Setup of the call centre system had always been complicated during these occasions. With Crux, he found it very simple to setup: take the box to a location, link it to a wireless router and Internet, and business starts almost instantly.
(The palm-sized Crux system.)
“I was sceptical for about six months, constantly watching out for errors. But Rohit provided us with good support and won us over."
For a while, he kept the older call centre system operating as a back-up but has now unplugged it.
What did he like about Crux apart from its ease of installation and use? “For us, productivity was key; it is so easy to use that even our older staff can use it."
He also liked the Crux mobile app. “I tested since I travel quite a bit. When I went to France to see Christmas trees, I could call Singapore from the mountains using the mobile data connection. It was treated as a local call.”
The easy setup of Crux has enabled FarEastFlora.com to be more resilient in its business operations, said Mr Chioh.
"I'm keen to share our story to show other SMEs that using the right technology can allow the business to continue despite unexpected conditions."
This story is part of an occasional series featuring SGTech members and their digital transformation journey.
We thank our members Crux Labs and FarEastFlora.com for agreeing to be interviewed for this feature.
Published October 2020