Michael Wangbickler on March 16th, 2009

Customer Service

There have been some interesting blog posts lately on how poor customer service can affect the bottom line. WineDiverGirl describes her experience on recent trip to a local Napa winery and their response. Shana Ray had a similar experience at a winery in Sonoma County. And finally, Sonadora (aka the Wannabe Wino) rails against one of the wine clubs she subscribes to for increasing her shipment (and cost) without even a how-do-you-do.

This all leads me to say: what the hell are they thinking? In today’s economic environment, wineries should be doing everything in their power to provide good customer service. Money is tight and wine is a luxury good. People want to feel, not only that they are getting good value, but also that they are treated well. This is especially critical with wine clubs, who are seeing members flee at record rates.

The March 16, 2009 Wine Business Insider gave us some preliminary results from Wine Business Monthly’s annual tasting room survey which indicated that wine club cancellations were up considerably in January and February. Sixty-five percent of survey respondents said club cancellations increased in January 2009 compared to January 2008 while 66 percent said club cancellations increased in February. Cancellations on average were up by 28 percent in January and 34 percent in February, according to respondents to the survey.

To many wineries, their wine club is their single greatest asset: repeat business. It’s your cash cow. So, why on earth wouldn’t you put policies in place to try a keep them? Worse yet, why would you put policies in place to push them away? I don’t get it.

The really sad part is that it’s just NOT THAT HARD. How hard is it to crack a smile and be friendly and attentive? How hard is it to put yourselves in the shoes of your customer? How hard is it to make someone feel welcome? Easy answer: IT’S NOT.

The wineries who recognize this fact and act accordingly will weather this economic downturn well, and may even come out the other end even stronger. Those that fail will find themselves at the back of the bus.

6 Responses to “Customer Service is Key to Survival”

  1. I agree completely. I was left even more baffled when I called up to inquire about other options and the explanation given to me for the change. So I called back and canceled today. They didn’t even ask me why.

  2. Exactly…

    Actually, the past two barrel tasting weekends have showcased some of the best and worst in customer service. Judd at Michel-Schlumberger went out of his way for not only his wine blogging friends, but every person who walked in the front gate. It is his and the attitude of the staff (oh, and the amazing wine) that will keep people coming back and telling their friends.

    Saturday, we visited Rosenblum in downtown Healdsburg at 4:05, only 4 minutes after the official end of Barrel Tasting and they were quick to tell us that the event had ended and basically pushed us out the door.

    Sunday, I had the pleasure of hanging out (with many other visitors) at Selby Winery, also in downtown Healdsburg. The tasting room staff kept the barrels and bottles open until well after 5:30 when we ended up leaving.

    Which winery will I go back to?

  3. Well put.

    Adequate or even great product can’t overcome poor service. There are too many reasons and excuses people have to not purchase now, they don’t need to be encouraged. They need to be reassured to stay.

  4. You got it, Dirty…Those businesses will find out if there is such a thing as too successful…because they are throwing away customers as fast as banks are burning through bailout dough. Don’t forget 1WineDude’s Post aptly titled: Serve or Die …http://1winedude.com/index.php.....s-economy/

    I’ll always go somewhere I feel welcome with my friends and family. And you’ll hear about the places that are too awful to put up with at any price.

  5. All great comments! Thanks all for contributing.

  6. So true. If customer retention is a priority for a company, customer service isn’t an option its absolutely mandatory. Especially nowadays. Competition is starving for your customers and knocking on their doors. Don’t give them a reason to answer.

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