One of the student projects I assign for my Viticulture Enology Science Technology Alliance (VESTA) Tasting Room Management class is an evaluation of a winery tasting room.  The number one area my students say needs improvement in wineries is customer service.

Wineries are popping up everywhere, and for a customer who has a bad service experience, there is always another new winery to visit.   According to “Right Now Customer Experience Impact Report 2011,”  89% of consumers will defect to a competitor following a poor customer service experience.

Delivering remarkable service that sets you apart from the competition will make your business stand out and result in increased revenue.  According to research done at Cornell University by assistant professor Miguel Gomez, a satisfied customer is likely to spend an additional $10 buying an extra bottle of wine and is more likely to re-purchase wine in the future.

Several years ago,  after attending customer service training with Zing Train, a consulting company specializing in customer service training, merchandising, and leadership based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I adopted their philosophy in my winery customer service training workshops simply because their system works.

Here are six steps, some from Zing Train, that can be used to improve the quality of service in your winery:

1. Hire nice people.  In an interview for a tasting room position, the applicant should smile within the first 30 seconds of the interview.  Zing Train has a 5-90-5 rule for hiring customer service staff.  The rule works like this: Out of 100 people interviewed for customer service jobs, 5% are naturally gifted at giving great customer service.   Then there are the 5 % of  interviewees who will never understand customer service and should not be hired.   Lastly,  are the 90 % of potential employees who are trainable.  To build a culture of great service,  concentrate on this coachable  “90%” group.

2. Teach your staff what great customer service looks like.  Great service makes our business special and keeps customers coming back. There are many great books on teaching customer service. I highly recommend “Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service” by Ari Weinzweig.