It is fascinating to see the revolutionary changes in technology that have occurred over the past twenty years or so including the personal computer, the internet, and social media. All of these have helped to shape new levels of customer interaction, from attracting new customers, to improving product sales, as well as revolutionizing product delivery.
Having worked in the high tech industry for many years, I have seen the dramatic effects in both business to business and business to consumer transactions.
OK .. .where am I going with this? Wine is a product that is sold both business to business and business to consumer. Technology has had tremendous impact on all facets of the industry. But … at the end of the day… it sometimes falls back to the timeless gestures of customer service that shine above the enabling technology.
Here’s some examples of customer service that outshined the technology:
Example 1: Wine Accessories – Soiree Aerator
I was recently searching for a wine aerator. Specifically, I was looking for something that did a great job of aeration, but that also was portable and simple to use. After a search on the web, I settled on the Soiree. Although a bit more expensive than the basic module, I decided to go with the deluxe offering – which included a padded carrying case (it is blown glass so the padded case makes sense). I found it available on Amazon and purchased the unit. When it arrived I was surprised to find that it did not include a drying stand nor an extra gasket as described on the Soiree site. It seemed strange that a Deluxe model would not include the same assessories as included with the basic model.
I sent a brief email to Soiree – “just bought your Soiree Deluxe L/S unit and expected to receive the stand and gasket as described as part of your base model. Is this correct?”
Options: (Possible responses from Soiree customer service….)
1. Don’t respond to the email
2. Respond and confirm .. yes .. sorry we don’t include those
3. OR, and this was the response: … yes we normally don’t include the second gasket..we have improved the unit and now only a universal one is needed, and sorry we normally don’t include the stand although the instructions might need clarification, BUT if you would provide your address we would be delighted to send you a drying stand AND a replacement gasket”
I have received the replacement gaskets and the draining stand.
Lest I forget …. the aerator works just as advertised. Highly recommended!
Thanks to Andrew at Soiree … he has delighted a new customer
Example 2: Lodging – Palazzo Squarcialupi Albergo
I recently enjoyed a vacation in Tuscany (yes… to my dismay back at work:-). Having stayed a few years ago in Castellina in Chianti, I decided to stay again at the Hotel Squarcialupi. On a previous visit I found the hotel to be spacious, very clean, up to date, and the staff to be very helpful and friendly. To my delight… they have gotten better! The hotel is still fully up to date with good sized rooms, modern furnishings, still impeccably clean and the prices are still very reasonable, and more importantly, the staff -although different personnel, are still very friendly, helpful and make you feel very much at home. Take advantage of the well situated veranda in the back where you can have a glass or a bottle of local wine at very reasonable prices. From advice on what to see, the best restaurants, or directions to nearby wineries or enotecas, Palazzo Squarcialupi is highly recommended (and an excellent value as well). Tell Sabina I sent you!
Example 3: Flash site – Tillsoldout.com
A friend of mine buys several times a year from various flash sites – you know, internet sites that sell wine at substantial discounts – often wines that are not available locally.
Recently he was delighted to find some bottles of a well rated Napa Valley Syrah at substantial discount. He bought and received them as expected and on time.
Opened the first … big smile … great buy as the wine was just as described.
Opened the second … big frown .. the bottle was corked .. undrinkable. His thought.. “OK .. how do I ship it back for credit? Will they credit me?”.
It took one email to Tillsoldout to get an immediate credit without any hassle.
Where do you think he buys his wine from now? Yes … Tillsoldout will continue to get lots of business.
Bottom line, Technology has helped the industry in many ways, starting in the vineyard, through vinification, and signficantly in supporting marketing and sales.
But in the end … common sense and excellent customer service will keep customers coming back over and over.
Recently two wineries have gone on the block and have been purchased by deep pockets.
On the West coast we have the Inglenook name puchased by Francis Ford Coppola (adding to a previous purchase in 1975).
Inglenook is one of the oldest wineries in America founded in Rutherford, California in 1879 by by Gustave Niebaum. Although shutdown during Prohibition, it was subsequently reopened by his widow who brought in fresh talent, and finally under the management of his great-nephew, John Daniel Jr. , the winery once again was seen as one of the best. Unfortunately, after being sold to Heublein in 1969, the focus was not on quality wine, but instead on jug wine. This continued with the subsequent sale to Constellation (at the time Canondaiqua) in the early nineties.
On the opposite coast, we have the Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyards in Charlottesville, Virginia. Based on the description from the Kluge website: “Established in 1999, Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard aspires to be one of the East Coast’s most prestigious wineries. Helmed by Patricia Kluge, the winery is tucked into Carter’s Mountain on the edge of the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains in Charlottesville, Virginia. Kluge’s 2,000-acres are just miles from the birthplace of American viticulture, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.” For more background on the story check out this article in the Washington Post.
In this case the purchaser of the winery is Donald Trump, a 776 acre estate valued earlier at $70M and purchaed for $6.2M. The plan apparently is to keep the same team (Patricia Kluge / William Moses) in place.
So which name do I expect to see great things happening? Let’s see…..
Mr. Coppola intends to restore the prestige to the Inglenook name. In order to do that he has hired the estate director of Chateau Margaux (Philippe Bascaules) and consultant Stephane Derencourt (who has been working with Rubicon since 2008).
On the other hand we have Mr. Trump, who in his own words said: “I’m really interested in good real estate, not so much in wine. This place had a $28 million mortgage on it, and I bought it for $6.2 million. It’s a Trump deal!”
Well…. perhaps Mr. Trump has not done his home work this time. There is an old saying “it takes a large fortune to make a small fortune” in the wine business. For those seeking profit as the main objective, the wine business may not be the best bet.
Inglenook or Kluge Estate? My bet is on Inglenook. As they say … “It was the best of times … it was the worst of times…..
Wineries on Twitter
After researching and reporting about wineries on Facebook recently, I thought it would be interesting to do the same for Twitter. And as I suspected … yes… many wineries are taking the opportunity to get their message out on Twitter as well as Facebook (not surprising since a very high percentage of the top Facebook wineries indicated they are on Twitter as well).
Anyone care? Well, on July 30 over 100,000 Twitter followers did!
That’s the number of followers that have signed up to “listen to” over 170 wineries that are currently tweeting.
Note: Regarding Wineries on Twitter
- As with the research on Facebook, it is only possible to gather data in a “moment in time”. Unlike other mediums, 24 hours can make a big difference in the numbers (case in point, EaglesNestWinery increased their followers by 128 in the last 24 hours!). With that in mind, the numbers below reflect the data as of July 29,2009.
- The numbers on Twitter and WeFollow did not match exactly, but were always relatively close and did not seem to skew the placement
- In some cases WeFollow listed companies that were wine related (such as tour companies, etc.) but were not wineries. These were not included.
- Listings on WeFollow are based on tags. Both the tag “winery” and “wineries” were used to identify the listings.
- As with the previous study, the research focuses on the top 50 wineries, with specific details and recognition for the top 5
Top5 Wineries on Twitter
#1 EaglesNestWinery (CA, USA) takes the top honors with 6772 followers. Their ratio is .92 (followers divided by follows), with 1113 tweets.
#2 In the number two slot is Teusner Wine (Barossa, Australia) with 4828 followers, a ratio of .91, and 1536 tweets
#3 Carpozzi Winery (pinotblogger) is #3 (CA, USA) with 3408 followers, a ratio of .99, and 3790 tweets
#4 In the #4 slot is Tassel Ridge Wines (Iowa, USA) with 3004 followers, a ratio of .91, and 1317 tweets
#5 Finishing up the top 5, Mouton Noir Wines (NYC, USA) with 2648 followers, a ratio of 1.08, and 1589 tweets
Regarding the top 50 wineries:
Click here to download the full list of the top 50 Wineries on Twitter as of July 28, 2009
- Total followers = 70,229 (average = 141405, median = 1019)
- Total follows = 76,377 (average = 1528, median = 1166)
- Total Tweets = 51882 (average = 1038, median = 477)
- Average ratio (followers/following) = .97, Median = .9
- All but 5 had custom themes
- Location: 1 Australia, 3 Canada, 1 Germany, 5 New Zealand, 1 Spain, 36 USA
- (In USA: 25 California, 1 Georgia,1 Illinois, 1 Iowa, 1 Massachusetts, 1 Miami, 2 New York, 1 Ohio, 3 Oregon)
- In terms of activity where more than 25 tweets in 24 hours = high, more than 15 but less than 25 = med, less than 10 = low , and 0 = none, there were 5 high, 4 med, 22 low, 19 none
- Tags are used to help find the accounts on Twitter. The top tag was “winery” used 40times and the second was “wine” used 37 times (39 if counting other language use – vino/wein). The location of the winery was used by 13 of the top 50, while varietals were tagged by 4. Other tags used included “winemaker” (12), “vineyard” (5), “wineblogger” (3), “winemakers” (2), “wineries” (2) and “wineblogger” (2). Other terms used once only included “sustainability”, “sustainable”, “sommelier”, “tourism”, “farm”, “education”, “tasting”, “tastingroom”, “vlogger”, “blogger”, “fun”, “foodie”, “family”, and “agritourism”.
- Wineries are actively using Twitter to connect with current and/or potential customers
- Its never too early to start .. Carpozzi is #2 waiting on the first vintage!
- None of the top 50 wineries on Twitter match up with the top 50 wineries on Facebook. Why? My opinion is that Twitter and Facebook although both social networking sites, are basically very different, and as a result participation on one or both likely takes on a different priority for the individual wineries. According to a recent post on Mashup - ”While on the surface many social networks look the same, there are significant differences, both in their structure and what they emphasize, but also in the attitude that users bring. The more we understand these, the more we can know which social networks to use for what purposes.” As an example, whereas one may use Twitter as a primary communications vehicle (microblog), others may see Twitter as a secondary vehicle to drive more activity on their website, blog, or Facebook page.
- The “volume” of tweets is much less important than the “quality” of tweets in terms of finding followers. In other words, it is much more important to understand and tweet about things of interest to your target audience than simply tweeting for the sake of it.
- For the most part, the top 50 have a close ratio of follows to followers indicating a balance that may be simply a result of “follow those that follow you”, or it may mean the wineries are doing a good job of attracting their target audience (real mutual interest).
- Tags are instrumental in helping to identify the wineries. A vast majority (48/50) of the top wineries used the term “winery” versus ”wineries”. Those thinking of setting up an account should take care in the tags used to identify themselves.
(NOTE: I will be updating this post within the next few days with the results of a survey of the top 50 wineries on Twitter, which should provide a great deal more insight as to the approach and benefit realized to date – stay tuned!)
In a newsletter last evening from WineSpiritsDaily.com there was a short article on car ignition interlocks as follows:
“CONGRESS TO CONSIDER MANDATORY IGNITION INTERLOCKS
The issue of ignition interlocks for first time offenders is gaining traction in the U.S. as Congress is set to debate a bill on the subject this fall, according to an article in USA Today. The latest federal transportation funding bill would require all 50 states to mandate the device for anyone convicted of drunk driving. If not they face losing federal highway money, similar to when Washington pressured states to change the legal drinking age from 18 to 21.
If the bill were to pass, it would require about 1 million devices in the U.S. A total of 47 states and Washington D.C. have interlock ignition laws for at least some offenders, while Alabama, South Dakota and Vermont have no ignition interlock laws. So far only 11 states require all offenders to install ignition interlocks, including first time offenders.
Of course there are (many) critics of the legislation. “As this creeping mentality about ‘don’t drink and drive’ as opposed to ‘don’t drive drunk’ takes over, you’re seeing more officers inclined to arrest people” below the legal limit for intoxication, stated managing director of the American Beverage Institute Sarah Longwell. The cost of ignition interlocks could also prevent some Americans from seeking treatment, claimed Carl Wicklund, executive director of the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA).
It looks like we could be headed for a big battle in the coming months. Stay tuned… ”
I would be very interested in your views: Please take part in a 5 minute survey.
I’ll provide the results as they come in.
I am sure everyone is familiar with the following quote from one of the Founding Fathers – Benjamin Franklin:
“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”
I’d like to modify the word “taxes” and substitute “sin taxes”. Why? As the nation continues to reel from the recession and ponders how to reduce the cost of overhauling the current healthcare system, as one might suspect, taxes or more specifically sin taxes, are being targeted.
Of course sin taxes are not just wine and beer. Sugared drinks and transfatty foods are included – basically anything that the powers to be feel should be discouraged. Unfortunately, that determination is often based on who can lobby the loudest.
Now like most people I am not in favor of new or more taxes. It seems everywhere you turn there are additional taxes on everything. However, the reality is that you cannot offer something for nothing – someone or something has to give somewhere.
In my opinion, the healthcare system cannot continue as it has. The costs continue to escalate, usually much higher than the inflation rate or the rate of wages, and the quality continues to decrease. The increasing costs of Medicare need to be solved as the system will be bankrupt in the not too distant future.
Why sin taxes? I believe the logic as an example, is that the consumption of alcohol in general has historically led to some degree of abuse, and that abuse has led to social problems and a growth in the cost of care. The new sin tax would be used to fund the cost of care and alcohol abuse. (By the way, I would like to mention as well that wine has been around and consumed for thousands of years and has brought a great deal of joy, as well as a good livelihood to thousands that have not abused it.)
Of course I do have many concerns for farmers, small and medium wineries, and retailers that would likely have to eat the cost of these new taxes either in reducing their profits or in lost sales (actually this is a subject for another time regarding changing archaic distribution and shipping laws that cling to Prohibition Era laws).
So although I am far from a proponent of any new or increased taxes, assuming that this country could in fact put in place a system that provided universal healthcare at costs that were affordable and that improved overall health services, I would have to at least be open to the idea.
But here’s the rub: how many times has the local, state, or federal government put in place taxes for a specific purpose only to raid those funds at a moments notice? Then the funds are not sufficient and they have to raise them again or put in place new taxes (after perhaps decimating one or two industries with the first tax).
If a tax is necessary, I would only be in favor if the funds could only be used for the purpose intended, and that if the funds were no longer needed for that purpose that this would automatically signal a repeal of said tax (yeah .. right … and cows fly!).
What do you think?