Creating an Employee Handbook

An employee handbook is an important part of your training schedule. The handbook provides employees with a written guide to follow and refer to when they may have forgotten.

Creating an employee handbook can be a lot of work, which is why many businesses do not have a comprehensive handbook. My suggestion is that you write the handbook in small pieces. For example, a winery would write a one or two page summary of the vineyards and how the grapes are grown; another one or two pages can be dedicated to the information on how the wines are made, focusing on the information that will give customers facts they can take home with them. I start with these two things as most owners find these pages easy to write and you might as well start off with things that can be done quickly.

Next on the list, write a one-page mission, vision, and an overview of the company if you don’t already have that.

After that, a one-two page basic job description detailing the duties of each the position in the company. For example, sales and hospitality staff should be given information on the ins and outs of opening and closing, how to run the cash register, etc. You should also cover compensation, commissions, and how sales discounts work for customers.

General employee policies differ from state to state but information should be readily available on government websites. Consider employee policies such as attendance, benefits, vacation time, confidentiality, dress code, expectations, expense reporting (if applicable) work performance, discipline and termination factors.

One of the most important parts of an employee handbook is the information about the Customer Experience you expect each of your employees to provide to your guests and customers. This information should be available to everyone in the company whether they regularly come into contact with the public or not.

When you ensure that your employees understand what your expectations are, you are more likely to have your expectation met. For an outline of a suggested table of contents for an employee handbook, drop me an email at E@inshortmarketing.com and I will send one over to you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

e_T4Q6892 low-res -c bw s

Advertisements

Making the Sale

Most of the wineries I know would like to increase their sales, though many of them are not sure how to go about it. Selling is not hard, it just takes some practice and an understanding of the basics.

Occasionally (very occasionally) someone comes in specifically to buy because they have seen something or the product has been recommended to them. Those people are not numerous enough to push through all your stock. You will have to take the rest of your customers through the four phases of the sale.

  1. Opening

Introduce yourself to the guests before beginning the interaction. Follow the introduction with a few questions about what brought the guests to the winery, the weather, how they like the area. Be sure to give the guests time to answer. This portion of the interaction should not last too long.

  1. Information Gathering

Before you give guests the tasting sheet or start pouring, discover some things that are important to the guests about wine. Ask what wines they drink at home, if they enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, etc. It is important to let them know that you are first interested in them, rather than what they will buy. Additionally, asking questions about why they chose to visit gives the server the information needed to direct the conversation and the experience.

  1. Sell Benefits

How does buying and drinking the wine benefit the guests? Show the guests how their lives will be better or more interesting by drinking your wine. Offer a solution to a problem (for example, they want a wine they can drink regularly). As you are doing this, ask the guests if they have any particular points of concern or questions they would like to ask.

  1. Close the Sale

Ask a few closing questions that will elicit yes answers based on information you already have elicited: “ You prefer white wines, is that correct?” “I believe you said you enjoy dry wines?” “When you were tasting you preferred the Frontenac.” Then summarize the benefits: “You will always be comfortable serving this wine to guests.” “We have a special price on the Chardonnay right now.” (Do not use the word discount – saying special price makes it more… well, special) “How many bottles would you like?”

Selling is simple if you focus on the guest. There are some buyers who want to know all the facts, but they are few and far between. Give guests information they can pass along to their friends about when they get home.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

e_T4Q6892 low-res -c bw s

Do You Know Your Employees?

With the workloads that many managers and owners have these days, it is easy to lose touch with what your employees are doing, how they are treating customers and how they feel about the treatment they receive from management.

Even with all the work that has to be done, one of the most important parts of a manager’s job is keeping in touch with employees both as a group and individually, especially those who interface directly with customers. I am surprised when I see employees treat customers with indifference, and wonder whether it’s because they are treated the same way. That’s not always the case but it can add to the lack of customer service in a company.

One thing to remember is that positive interaction with employees usually takes some thought and attention. Think about the words you use when speaking with employees, your tone of voice and your body language. Make eye contact with employees. Work on your soft skills (see my blog from 12.12.17 for more information on soft skills) and your ability to connect with employees.

When you are looking for information from your employees, be aware of how you ask the questions and be specific about what you want to know. It is easy to misinterpret what people want of you, whether it is manger to employee or employee to manager.

When talking about policy changes, present your case in a positive and persuasive manner. Ask for feedback, listen carefully and receive it openly. Take your time when considering suggestions before you make any decisions on whether the ideas should be implemented or not. If you can test an employee’s suggestions, do so. Keep in mind, too, the tone of your online and distributed information and the effect it may have on employees.

Work on ways to relate to your employees, take the time to make small talk with them.

Show an interest in their lives and family and look for common ground. You may find that you have more in common with your staff that your thought.

The way you treat your employees is the same way your employees will treat your customers.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

e_T4Q6892 low-res -c bw s

Customer Service in the Airline Industry

The airlines have not been getting kudos lately as far as their customer service towards passengers goes. For a while, it has been one thing after another.

I have been traveling quite a bit and been spending a fair amount of time in airports and on planes. In November, I was scheduled to fly from Spokane to Seattle and then home to Sonoma County, after being away for two weeks. On day one, the flight to Seattle was late due to a mechanical problem, so late that there was no chance that I would make my connection. So the airline booked me on a flight for the next day. The bag I had checked was retrieved from the airline and, after five hours in the airport, I headed for the hotel.

The next morning, I was up at 6 a.m. to catch the 7 a.m. shuttle from the hotel back to the airport for a 9 a.m. flight. Unfortunately, the flight was coming from Seattle, which was in the midst of a winter storm and low visibility. This was causing delays in planes being able to take off (337 planes delayed and 41 canceled) so, again, everything was late. This put me back in the queue, with a long line of other disgruntled travelers. To add to the travails, it was also Friday, which meant that the airport was very busy with people heading home, and heading out for the weekend or longer.

So what does this have to do with my blog? The answer is customer service. The airline representatives for Alaska Airlines that I spoke to were absolutely terrific. They had long lines of frustrated customers, who were handled with patience and courtesy. Never once did the young woman I dealt with ever respond to the frustration of customers (including me). She got on her computer and moved travelers to other flights, and other airlines, bumping people up to better seats and generally doing everything she could to make it work. After retrieving my bags once more from Alaska (the check-in people knew me by name by that time) I was assigned to United Airlines (first class, woohoo!) coming to San Francisco rather than Sonoma County, but at least I was close to home. I also got a credit from the airline to use on my next flight.

I have to congratulate the airport personnel at Alaska Airlines in Spokane, who did a great job in sorting out hundreds of travelers in difficult circumstances.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

e_T4Q6892 low-res -c bw s

The Art of Public Speaking

As it is coming up to conference time again, I was reading an article about public speaking so I could remind myself of the things I should be doing. When I started thinking about it I realized that whether you talking to two people across a tasting bar or in any other retail establishment or whether you are talking to 100 people in a seminar it’s still public speaking. So here are a few tips that I always try to keep in mind when I am speaking.

People remember how they felt when someone is speaking to them. They probably won’t remember the words you used but they will remember how they felt. You can create emotions by telling stories or by putting yourself in their shoes. Let them know there was a time when you were not the expert and how you felt at that time.

Rather than giving your audience a lot of facts (unless, of course, that is what they want – in which case they will usually keep asking you questions), find out what your audience is looking for and help them to understand how you can deliver what it is they want.

Never underestimate people’s willingness to buy so they can impress their friends. What I mean by that is give them a story they can take home with them. Something in the stories they tell may encourage their friends to visit you or use your products. It doesn’t help if they are using your products when they are telling the story.

Give your audience some tips that will make their experience with your products even more special. Present the guests with information related to your topic that is of benefit to them.

Return to the main points of your presentation so that the audience will retain the important things you are telling them. If you present a lot of information it’s hard to remember so key points should be mentioned three times while you are speaking.

Relax when you are talking to strangers. If you are comfortable, they will be too.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

e_T4Q6892 low-res -c bw s

Reviewing Your Customer Service

The beginning of the year is a good time to review your customer service and your customer retention. How did you do at holding on to customers in the past year? Who has dropped off the radar and why? Most managers know how many customers they gained over the past year, though less of them know how many customers they lost or why they lost these customers.

If your business has a slow time, those involved in customer service can spend this slower season going through customer records, finding out who has gone AWOL and picking up the phone to find out why. There are lots of reasons for customers to stop buying and not all of them have anything to do with your business or products. If customers have dropped away for personal reasons (illness, a lost job or a move for example) a phone call to tell them that you haven’t seen them for a while and hope everything is okay will make them feel appreciated and missed. That way, when their lives are back to normal, they will be back.

If the reason they have left you is because of a bad experience, the sooner you find out about it the better. Especially as 95% of consumers talk about poor customer service experiences with other people, though they probably won’t tell you.

The winter is also a good time to make changes that might be necessary or improve the experience you provide to guests and customers. Get together with key staff and define the ideal experience that you would like to deliver to your customers and guests. Give your employees the opportunity to present their ideas of how things can be improved. When employees have a hand in shaping the experience they are much more likely to follow the template that is created for the experience.

Once you have a new template for the customer experience, put in place processes that will promote the change. Train some of your employees to be mentors so that when you hire new staff in the spring, there is someone they can turn to for help and guidance if you are not available.

This work during the winter will pay off in increased sales and greater customer satisfaction come the busy season.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

e_T4Q6892 low-res -c bw s

Making the Most of Instagram

Instagram has been around since October 2010 and in only seven years it has increased its users to 700 million, which is more than twice the size of Twitter. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and judging from the pictures I have found on Instagram I would say that is definitely true, especially for wineries. Seeing a great bottle of wine, beautiful vineyard or a winery tasting room can increase the desire to visit. Just a quick note: when you take a picture of your tasting room, make sure there are people in it. I see many pictures of tasting rooms that are completely empty, which makes me wonder how popular the winery is.

It’s simple to add pictures to Instagram, though remember that if you can create unique or uncommon pictures and make the description of your post different from that of other companies in your industry, viewers are much more likely to pay attention to your business. There are people involved in every business and viewers are interested in the people behind the brand. Pictures of people tend to attract attention, whether they are customers or employees. A quick reminder: ask permission before using pictures of individuals.

Use different types of posts. You can go from serious to comic, depending on the situation. Use an emoji or a cartoon on occasion, if it fits in with what you want to get across to viewers. People like to laugh. It’s a serious world a lot of the time and giving people the opportunity to laugh can create a bond between them and the company.

Certainly, you can promote buying through Instagram in different ways, some subtle and some not so subtle. Continually pitching may push people away from the posts, so break up the sales pitches with interesting, personal, or funny posts.

Instagram is a great tool and used properly can be a boon to your business.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

e_T4Q6892 low-res -c bw s