What Makes Customers Happy?

There was an interesting article in a Marketing Profs email a month or so ago about customer service and what customer service issues annoy customers the most. I am sure that most of us can guess what they are because they are the same ones that annoy us when we were on the customer side of the equation.

The article by Ayaz Nanji talked about the customer service issues most likely to make people stop doing business with a company. The two that customers found most frustrating were talking to company employees who were uninformed, and if they had to wait a long time to talk to someone.

I know, myself, that dealing with recorded messages that ask me to press this and press that and go on for minutes before I can get to an actual human being tends to put me in a bad mood before I even speak to the customer service person, who may well be doing his/her best to help me. When you have a simple question a recorded message can be quite helpful in getting you the information you need.

However, it is the uninformed employees that are most likely to result in the customer abandoning the company or product for another. It’s important that everyone knows that if they don’t know the answer to a question a customer is asking or they cannot solve the problem a customer has, then as quickly as possible get the customer to someone who can answer the question or solve the problem. If that is not an option, take the information about the problem and tell them you will get back to them.

Customers want issues they have to be resolved quickly. It is the most important thing about good customer service. So, whether it is in person, on the phone, through email or online chat, do everything you can to solve the customer’s problem quickly and efficiently, it will pay dividends in the short and long term.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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No Longer Business As Usual

I work with wineries throughout North America and have been amazed at the growth in the industry over the past decade or so. The growth is in all states and provinces and in some areas the number of wineries has quadrupled in fifteen years.

This means that there is a lot more competition for consumer interest and customer dollars. As well as making products that can stand up to the quality that customers expect, you also need to create an atmosphere that will make customers want to come back and want to continue to buy from you.

In order to keep up with the rapidly changing world of customer service and sales, it’s important to also keep an open mind and be ready for the next new thing. It wasn’t too long ago that there was no such thing as Social Media and now, a good social media campaign can increase the number of people who know about and will try your products.

There are a few things that we have to understand and practice if we want to be successful in the long term.

  • Know what you want to achieve: Have clear goals and make sure that everyone in the company is aware of the goals and how meeting these goals affects each individual job.
  • Be open to suggestions: Sometimes doing things a certain way because that’s the way they have always been done is not the best option. There may be a better way because the business has changed. More competition can mean that you need to promote your business in different ways, for example.
  • What else can you do to be successful? There may be things that you haven’t thought of. Look at your competition and see what they are doing or ask your employees if they have any ideas.

There are lots of things to consider that may or may not work. Though you are not going to know until you have at least given every idea a fair hearing and thought it through. It may be with just a little tweaking it changes your business and possibly the world.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Terrible Week (and it’s only just started)

Nature has a way shaking us up when we least expect it. Strong winds whipped up huge fires in Napa and Sonoma counties on Sunday night, which led to unthinkable devastation in the early hours of Monday morning and on through the day.

Many people were evacuated (I was just outside the evacuation area), So many lost houses (whole subdivisions were destroyed) and businesses. The north end of Santa Rosa has suffered amazing damage.

We are grateful to the police and fire departments that did such a good job of getting everyone out of harm’s way.

The fires are still out of control, but the winds, which were up to 45 miles an hour on Sunday night, have calmed down. We have fire departments from all over California helping out, so I believe they will get a handle on the fires soon. In the meantime, those of us still in homes are packed and ready to evacuate if needed

There have been so many different types of natural disasters this year that at times it’s hard to keep it in perspective. The way I see it we are only renting this planet and sometimes it has a mind of its own. So I will finish by saying the words I have been saying and hearing so much the last couple of days: Stay safe.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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How well are you tracking your social media?

While distributing information to your customers and potential customers through social media is important, it’s also important to know how the people that you are reaching are reacting to what you have to say. Are they paying attention to your posts or tweets and passing them along to others or do the posts just disappear?

Know why you regularly posting on social media: to become more engaged with your customers, to gain more publicity for your brand, to attract more customers, to sell product or to present your customers with reasons to buy from you. Keep a list of goals handy, to keep you on track.

To discover whether or not you are successful, track your social media posts to see where they go after they reach your audience. This can be accomplished through tracking keywords that relate to your company or products.

Track your brand or company name. Know who is talking about your company or products and why. Whether it is a complaint or a compliment, a response to the person who responded to the post will positively affect how they feel about you. It is easier than you think to turn around a complaint by paying attention and doing everything you can to sort out the problem either on- or offline. Tracking your brand or company may also give you more information about questions that customers are asking each other, or whether there is talk about your products.

It doesn’t hurt to track your main competitors also. It helps to know what they are doing and how they are being perceived on social media.

Track key employees through their own sites and through what people are saying about them. In the wine industry, you know how important the winemaker, the owners and even the people in the tasting room are to many of your best customers. They feel connected to these people and will be loyal to the brand because of them.

Track industry keywords to see if your brand, company or products are being mentioned in the broader industry by consumers who may be looking for the type of product you produce.

Social media may not cost a lot when compared to print or electronic advertising but if you are going to be successful it does take time to do it right.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Preparing for the Future

A few weeks ago, Rob McMillan, an EVP with Silicon Valley Bank and founder of their wine division, wrote as part of his blog about his prediction for the slowdown of growth in wine sales starting around mid-2018 and into 2019. He continues to say that while sales probably won’t decline, he expects zero growth at that time.

His predictions are well researched, based on Nielsen data of wine sold through wholesale. It doesn’t include DTC sales, which is good news for the smaller wineries who sell mostly through direct to consumer channels, tasting rooms, wine clubs, etc. That means, however, that more time and effort needs to be put into marketing.

The other good thing about getting this information early is that you have time to plan for the next couple of years, to keep your sales rolling along at a fair pace, with increased sales and profit.

It also gives you the chance to start thinking about what wines are selling and what are lagging so you can focus more on the wines that your customers prefer. It doesn’t mean that you can’t make some less well-known varietals. Though before you commit to a large planning for these varietals, know how much of those wines are being sold and whether the sales are increasing year to year.

Start planning now for robust sales and marketing methods. Branch out to include things you may not have tried before or put more attention on the content, frequency and customer inclusion of your social media, emails and other ways to contact your customers and potential customers.

Preparing for less or no growth over the next couple of years works to your advantage even if the forecast turns out to be wrong. The promotion you do will not be wasted and you may find that you have the best year ever.

Thanks, for the heads up Rob… By looking at what may be coming up for 2018 and 2019, you will be in better shape to weather whatever comes your way.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Easy Ways to Increase Sales

If you want to increase your sales quickly and simply, good customer service is your biggest asset. It will increase customer good will, willingness to buy, and return visits. We talk a lot about sales skills, but if customer service is not the major part of sales, the sales skills are not going to help much.

I have been into many businesses where sales people try to push me, bully me and sometimes even shame me into buying. I don’t buy. If you provide me with good customer service, show you are interested in me and engage me, I will willingly and happily buy from you and come back to buy more.

Customer service is a compilation of different skills that help you, the sales person, focus on the customer, find out what s/he wants, and meet their expectations with not only your service but your products.

  1. Introductions: Welcome your customers to your business and immediately introduce yourself. Usually, if you introduce yourself the customer will introduce him/herself. If you don’t have a good memory, silently repeat the customers’ names three times and say to them: “John/Julie it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
  2. Ask A Question: Any number of questions can be asked:
  • Are you enjoying the lovely weather?
  • Is this your first visit?
  • Did you have anything special in mind today?
  • Are you visiting the area (if you are in a tourist area.)
  • You look familiar (if you think they may have been in before.

3. Listen to the Answers: It may be information you can refer back to that will help close a sale. People respond to people who pay attention, it makes them feel important. Don’t present a new query until your customers have finished answering the one before.

4. Be Patient: We all work at different speeds. Allow the customer the time to formulate an answer to your question or to make a decision. Count slowly and silently to five.  Use the same 5-second rule when you ask customers if they have any questions. A lot goes through people’s heads before they ask a question. They may have trouble formulating the question or don’t want to ask a silly question or appear ignorant in front of others.

5. Relax when you are around customers. You know that you have fifty things you need to get done by the end of the day, but your customers don’t. It’s not appropriate to make customers uncomfortable because they are taking up your time.

6. Don’t Assume: You don’t know whether a stranger who walks into your business is going to buy or not. You might think you do, but truly you don’t. It is very human to judge people, we do it all the time. So, if you find that you are judging, tell yourself that you may not be right. Then go about helping them to the buying decision.

Look for more customer service ideas next week.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Take the Time to Do Some Research

One of the things I like most about the work I do is that it involves a fair amount of research on different topics. I use the information I find to create handouts at seminars and for my weekly blogs. While the Internet has certainly simplified research, it also means that there is much, much more information available. The trouble is, once you get started it is hard to stop. I can easily spend half a day as one thing leads to another.

Market research is important in any business, though with the demands of business it is sometimes hard to get around to it in a formal way. Market research sounds so formal, although it can be done through informal ways that will give you the information you really need. When you talk to people who can give you insight, you are conducting market research.

Start by making a list of questions to ask your subjects and keep the questions short. There may be a couple of things you want to know or a list of twenty. However, don’t overwhelm your subjects with too many questions. Once you have your list of questions put them in order of the least to most important.

Choose different audiences, for example:

  • Employees (those who work in the areas in which you are trying to find answers.) You may want to give employees the questions and allow them to answer anonymously on the off chance that they feel their answers may offend you.
  • Customers are a wonderful wellspring of information. They will tell you what they like about your business, products, service, etc. or what they don’t like (usually in great detail.)
  • People who don’t buy your products but are part of your target audience. They can be another good avenue as they may not buy your product because they have never heard of you. While you think you are advertising and promoting to the right people, you may be missing a large group.
  • Competitors are another group. Send someone that they don’t know to visit their premises and ask the questions.
  • Suppliers or sales reps are a good source of information as they deal with many people in the same business you are in.
  • Professional organization to which you belong may have information that could be helpful to you.

When conducting market research be open to the answers you receive. Think about each of them seriously, rather than dismiss them because they don’t suit your mindset.

Enjoy your research.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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