Getting Back to the Nuts and Bolts of Customer Service
A sincere smile. Eye contact. A welcoming voice. A handwritten card. These are all things that are vitally important to creating and building customer relationships that last. Is it rocket science? No. Does it take some forethought and intentional action? Yes. Is it worth it?
Number One: Get Personal
People who experience a visit with you (whether it be in a tasting room, at a winemaker dinner or on a vineyard tour…) have intentionally sought your brand out. They’ve likely had your wine at a restaurant or at a friend’s house and really, really like it. They liked it to the point that they’ve researched where you make wine, follow your story through social media, and have possibly even purchased via your website. They are fans and ambassadors. And now that they are visiting your region on vacation, they have carved out precious time to visit you.
To you, it may just be another day at the office. To your visitors, it’s often an exciting, much-anticipated part of their trip. They have connected with your brand. They have a chance to experience your brand’s energy in person. This is a big deal to them.
To that end, it’s important to make them feel welcome from the moment they set foot in your orbit. Establish that connection right away. Humans make quick judgments. Be sure that your visitors feel like you’re happy that they are there as soon as they walk through that door. It will set the tone for the entire tasting experience…and by extension, sales. A customer who feels appreciated and heard is a customer who will be a loyal purchaser for years to come.
Number Two: Get Engaged
When we lived in Yountville, my husband and I belonged to five different wine clubs. We loved the ritual of picking up the wines in-person and attending the pickup parties. While we enjoyed visiting all of the wineries where we were club members…there was one that really stood out. They always made us feel incredibly welcome when we visited. They remembered our names. We received ‘special treatment’– for instance, one time we were treated to an impromptu barrel tasting with the winemaker, who happened to be in the tasting room. We recommended this winery to all of our visiting friends. The result? Most of our friends became members as well.
When we moved back to Nevada, we needed to pare down our expenses. When you find yourself suddenly on a tight budget, wine clubs are one of the first casualties. But you know what? We always found a way to keep that one club. We felt such a profound connection with the winery, that it remained a priority for us.
Number Three: Communication is King
Whether customers visit your tasting room or order from your website, communication is a HUGE part of their overall experience. And while mass email campaigns announcing new releases and events are vitally important, it’s the more personal reach-outs that can be game-changers.
The best tasting room staff connects quickly and deeply with the guests. During the visit, guests feel quite comfortable - and like they actually get to know their host. When you spend an hour (or more) one-on-one with people, you definitely get a feel for them. It’s important to not let that feeling of connection stagnate after they’ve left the winery or vineyard. It makes the visitor feel extraordinarily special when they receive a personal note (either via email or even better…in their physical mailbox) thanking them for visiting. That personal touch is a validation that their visit mattered. It feels good. And when they think about ordering wine, more likely than not, they’ll order from the winery where they feel the biggest connection.
Likewise, with online orders – it’s great to follow up once the customer has received the wine. We often forget about this piece and it may seem a bit superfluous. BUT it’s important (especially with a luxury item like wine) to follow up with a personal email or a call just to confirm that the wine was received in good order. The reason for this is twofold: 1) It is good for you to hear whether any issues were experienced so that you can swiftly resolve them. 2) Customers love hearing directly from the winery. This is a place they feel connected to – so when someone reaches out to make sure everything is okay, it leaves them feeling taken care of. You’d also be surprised how many of these follow up conversations can turn into a sale of additional wine!
Number Four: Be Honest
Things go wrong sometimes. Shipments can be delayed due to a wine label snafu. Wines can be corked. Or…true story from my tasting room days - I remember a particularly upset customer (who happened to be one of our very top buyers) who missed out on his allocation because he was out of the country. The wine he really wanted was completely sold out and I was the lucky soul who got to inform him.
The best possible way through those tough conversations is honesty, honesty, honesty. The more you try to talk your way out of it, the worse it gets. Your customers are smart. And they see right through excuses. If you’re just upfront about the issue, that’s really all you can do. Is it hard? Heck yes, it is. But most of the time, frank honesty diffuses further anger and frustration.
Number Five: Don’t Be Afraid to Pick Up the Phone
I did an entire blog article a couple of months ago about the art of actually picking up the phone to sell wine to your biggest fans. It may seem really weird to hear that, especially in this age of email campaigns, social media, and automation. While all of those things are exceedingly effective when done properly, picking up the phone and speaking directly to the customer is truly the next best thing to being in-person when it comes to cultivating and nurturing the connection they feel to your brand. Believe it or not, they LOVE hearing from the winery because the winery represents memories of their trip visiting the region, your amazing hospitality or an incredible dinner that may have featured your wine. Don’t be afraid that you’ll be ‘bothering’ them. Try it! You’ll be amazed at what an effective selling tool this is.