Stop Before You Start

Julie Pedroncelli St. John from Pedroncelli Winery sent me a great article by Barry Stuckey who has spent much of his career in Hospitality. The article was about a waitress he encountered in an eatery at Heathrow Airport. I have pulled out some of the key points, as the article was too long for this blog. The article really encapsulated a lot of the finer point of excellent service, whether you work in a retail business or are selling B2B.

The first point, which to me is the most important, is to be conscious of what you are doing before you begin speaking to a customer. Before you approach the customer or pick up the phone to call them, STOP… Clear your mind of what you have been working on or thinking about and focus your attention on the person to whom you are speaking. As you are approaching the customer or waiting for them to answer the phone, put yourself into listening mode (you are probably already in talking mode). Once you have approached the customer smile, and tell them your name. You should also be smiling if you are on the phone, people can tell.

This small act of separation from what you were doing, or from the last customer allows you to move on to a new customer. Your focus on them will transmit itself to the customer. You will appear engaged and ready to help them. The customer will also become engaged as they realize that your attention is directed to them. Because you are more engaged you will be more apt to listen and really hear what your customer is saying. You will also be more likely to pick up non-verbal signals such as their tone of voice or the fact that their stance shows you they are or are not interested.

When a customer asks you a question, smile in response and, before you speak, lean in just slightly. This creates an impression that you care what your customer is saying.

These are small things that will make big differences to the comfort of your customers and to their connection with you, the business and the products.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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There’s More to Social Media Than Post and Click

Social Media for many retailers means posting something about their product and hoping that it interests your fans. Yet, as social media becomes more sophisticated, we need to be more aware of what our fans want from us.

The fans don’t only want to read what we have to say, they want us to read what they have to say, whether they are saying it directly to us, or putting it out on the internet in different places.

It’s important that we monitor what our fans (and those who may not be fans) are saying about us. Good or bad – we need to know. It’s also important that we respond to the comments, whether they are positive or negative.

Responding to negative comments is as much about letting others know that we care as it is about reaching out to the person who has made the negative comments. As more and more people use social media, we need to be there to say “thank you” to those who have positive things to say and “how can we make it better?” to those who are not so positive about their experiences with our hospitality or our brand.

We should also respond quickly (with 24 hours if possible) to those who ask questions or want more information from us.

There are sites you can go to (some at no charge and some paid) in order to find out what people are saying. So type in Social Monitoring into your browser, find out the tools to follow on what people are saying about your business, either directly or indirectly, and respond nicely (of course) to the comments.

Create two-way conversations with the people who regularly follow you. They will appreciate you, your business and your brand more – and appreciation sells product.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Set the P.A.C.E. for 2013

2013 is going to be an exceptional year. I can feel it and am very much looking forward to it.

January is a good time to create your plan for the 2013 season. While things might be a little quiet in the tasting room at present, they will not stay that way, so set the P.A.C.E. now for your direct-to-consumer interactions through the tasting room, website, email, advertising and all the other ways you stay in contact with your customers.

P.A.C.E. is an acronym I put together that stands for Procedures, Atmosphere, Customers and Experience, the areas you need to focus on to have a successful year.

Procedures: Are all your procedures and processes in place and in writing? Your staff (old and new) needs to know what is expected of them in all aspects of their jobs. Make it easy on them and it will be easier for them to meet your expectation and goals.

Atmosphere: Create with your employees an atmosphere to encourage connection, sales and repeat visits. It’s a great topic for a hospitality staff meeting.

Customers: Make 2013 the year you excel at customer relations. Enhance your efforts to engage visitors and customers by paying more attention to them and their needs. Work with your staff to focus on what is most important and what works well.

Experience: The word Experience is bandied about a lot in the wine business, though I still find that the Experience in a lot of wineries is at best mediocre, so be more specific about the type of Experience you want to provide for guests. Use more E words, upgrade the Enthusiasm and Engagement to intensify the Experience you are providing.

Happy New Year!

It’s going to be marvelous.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

Take A Busman’s Holiday

(Spend a day wine tasting)

Think back on the last few times you went out tasting. If you haven’t been out lately, it’s high time you did. So grab a friend and take a day to sample other people’s wine and see how their hospitality and service stack up. You might also treat yourself to lunch while you’re out there after all you are working. If possible, visit wineries where you are not known so that you are treated just like any other visitor. Don’t tell them that you’re in the wine business until you have to (to get your inter-winery discount). If you are known at all the wineries, observe how other visitors are treated.

It’s a big help to know what other wineries are doing and how you measure up against them. You also can evaluate the experience – was it in any way different from the norm? Were staff members cheerful and interested in you? Did they gain your trust? Did you buy anything? And if you did, was it because someone encouraged you to do so, or did you just decide you liked the wine enough to purchase?

There is so much to learn from visiting other wineries. These winery visits not only allow you to weight up the competition, they also allow you to see what you are doing right or what you may need to change.

Make notes of the things you liked and the things you didn’t and take an objective look at your winery hospitality and service, and see how they compare.

Have a great day and come back with lots of new ideas.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

 

Are You Meeting or Exceeding Visitor Expectations?

I was listening to the radio, a while ago, and happened upon an interview with Chip Conley, who started the Joie de Vivre hotels. While I was not familiar with him, I have stayed in one or two of his hotels and enjoyed my stay. I was impressed with the attention paid to the guests’ well being and satisfaction.

As relationship building is as important in the wine industry as it is in the hotel business, I was interested in what he had to say. One of the things Mr. Conley said was:

“Disappointment is the result of badly managed expectations.”

In the wine industry there is a lot of talk about the (capital E) Experience and how important it is to provide a good experience. However, it has been my observation that tasting room staff spends very little time determining the expectations of the visitors to their tasting rooms. Hospitality employees have told me, on more than one occasion, that all visitors come to their winery to be educated. I certainly agree that some are looking for education about wine, winemaking and grape growing, though others are looking for different things: to be entertained, for connection, for fun. Or perhaps they decided to stop at your winery because they had been in the car too long and needed to stretch their legs.

People’s expectations are not always realistic, but they still believe that they have the right to have their expectations met. Our job is to find out what their expectations are, while visiting the winery, and to meet or exceed those expectations. If we do that, we will make more friends for the winery and sell more wine. So, before we start talking about the wine, let’s find out what our people expect from their visit to the winery.

Remember: it’s not all about the wine.

Cheers!

The Perfect Cup of Tea

As many of you know, I’m British and because of that I very much value a good cup of tea. Now, getting a good cuppa in the United States can be difficult. With the propensity towards lawsuits, restaurants are cautious about giving customers hot water. The water is usually tepid. Also, I can’t tell you the number of times I have been reminded not to scald myself. I have been drinking tea for many decades and am proud to say that I have never once scalded myself and am not about to start now.

Last Saturday I was at my favorite breakfast spot and the waitress came by to refill my teapot. Before picking it up she asked me, “Do you like the water really hot?” I answered that I did. When she returned she told me that she had filled the teapot from the Espresso machine, because the water that comes from the machine is much hotter than that from regular pot.

As you can imagine I was thrilled. The tea was delicious (the best cup of tea I’ve had outside my house in some time!) and my pleasure was reflected in the tip I left her. I was impressed by that small attention to detail, which resulted in a very satisfied customer (me). When I’m out drinking tea from now on, I will ask if the establishment has an Espresso machine and if so, if they will get the hot water for my tea from there.

It’s such a small thing but it made a big impression. It should be the same in any retail establishment, including wineries. Attention to the minor details is what makes for very satisfied customers. So think about the small things and improve your service and sales, and make your visitors friends for life.

A sua saude! (To your health!), Portugal

What Business Are We In?

When I ask that question, the answer I most commonly get back (along with a slightly quizzical look, as if I should know) is that we’re in the wine business. And while, on the surface that seems like it should be the answer, it’s not.

Wine is our product, but as the hospitality folks the business we’re in is the business of people, and our job is to build relationships, creating connections and memories for our guests as we go. Even if we are winemakers, vineyard managers or owners, when we come into contact with wine drinkers, we need to do all we can to connect.

Visitors may love your wine, but that won’t always make them plan a return visit, attend events or join your wine club. There’s lots of good wine out there and for the majority of consumers the quality of the product is only a part of why they buy. What makes them more likely to buy is the quality of the connection the guests form with those who work for the winery, whether that connection is in person, over the phone or even through email.

People connect with people. No matter the price point of the wine, the product is enhanced by the guests’ connection with the person or people they meet at and through the winery and how those people meet their expectations.

So, find out what each visitor is expecting by asking questions, discover a little about these visitors, get to know what wine means in their lives. Don’t start talking about the wine until you have some idea why they decided to stop in. Be interested in your visitors as people first and buyers second. You’ll sell more by concentrating on who they are and less about trying to give them every fact about the wine. Who knows, you might even find a great new friend.