By Jessica Creagan
VERO BEACH -- There are times when answering a phone call and taking an order isn't enough, and for one Vero Beach-based company, that time is all the time.
Providing high-quality customer care is a consistent and recognized standard at Southern Fulfillment Services, the parent company of Hale Groves. Last month the company received an award marking them a certified center of excellence by Benchmark Portal, a best practices evaluator for contact centers around the world.
Headquartered in Vero Beach since 2006, Southern Fulfillment Services is a direct-to-consumer fulfillment company specializing in wholesale and private label services for companies selling perishable and non-perishable products, a press release said.
In the case of Hale Groves, Southern Fulfillment Services has an in-house call center where customers can call and be walked through the process of buying a the gift of Florida sunshine, aka. Florida citrus, for family and friends around the country, said Mike Lore, call center manager.
The certification, which is evaluated annually, compared Southern Fulfillment Services to thousands of other North American contact centers, measuring efficiency and effectiveness in key performance indicators, such as customer satisfaction, speed to answer, talk time and abandon rate, Mr. Lore said.
"The achievement of the center of excellence certification is clearly the culmination of initiatives undertaken to achieve sustainable service excellence and customer loyalty," Mr. Lore said.
The company's 100 percent customer satisfaction guarantee is another way Southern Fulfillment Service sets high standards and goals for themselves.
"If someone gets fruit and they're not 100 percent happy with it, we have agents that work with them to see what will make it right, whether it's to replace the order, refund it, or order something else. We want them to be 100 percent satisfied and we want them to come back to us year after year," Mr. Lore said.
In the past eight years the company has fulfilled and shipped more than 10 million packages to hundreds of thousands of customers.
During the height of citrus season, there can be as many as 150 customer care agents on the floor taking orders all day long, Mr. Lore said.
From October 2013 to January 2014, customer care agents took 200,000 phone calls and 18,000 email inquiries, he said.
Denise Dodd, Joan Morrissey and Arlene Isbell are just three of the agents that have been taking calls for more than a dozen seasons, even before Southern Fulfillment Services took over Hale Groves.
"Hale Groves has been in business since 1947 with many loyal customers and we want to be loyal to them," Mr. Lore said.
Having experienced customer care agents that really know the product is definitely a boon for the company and is an element that sets their company apart from others, he said.
Receiving recognition for their excellent service is wonderful, but that doesn't mean the team will be resting on their laurels.
"Just because we received this award doesn't mean we don't need to improve, but it means we are definitely on the right track and we will keep on going that way," Mr. Lore said.
In addition to Hale Groves, Southern Fulfillment Services also owns Pittman and Davis, Nelson Family Farms, Holiday Citrus/Citrus Country Groves, Citrus.com and Gift Baskets Remembered.
They also are a full-service provider to other national brands such as the Meredith Corporation, which produces Better Homes and Gardens®, Ladies Home Journal®, Family Circle® and Parents®, a press release said.
Southern Fulfillment Services are located at 1650 90th Ave., Vero Beach. For more information, call (772) 226-3500 or visit www.southernfulfillment.com.
For more information about Hale Groves, visit www.halegroves.com.