Hello and welcome to my first blog! My name is Dina Northcutt and I am a new member of the DTC Wine Network, so here is a bit about me. I grew up in an agricultural community in the Midwest, with a horticultural dad, who constantly taught me about plants, weather conditions, micro climates, natural ways to add nutrients to the soil, crop predators, etc. Naturally inquisitive, I have always been fascinated by grape growing and wine, even tried to make my own wine when I was 14 from my grandfather’s grape arbor.
All of my adult life, I have been enthusiastic about the wine industry. As much as I’ve loved food and wines, my professional experience began on the IT and marketing side as a management consultant and business analyst for a wide range of products and services, working globally with all organizational levels and clients. Throughout the years, I was able to transition these skills into the wine industry.
Over the last nine years I have been lucky enough to work with a wine events company, submerged myself in three separate 12-hour Wine Boot Camps, taught several wine and food pairing classes and worked at Chateau Montelena in the tasting room, the wine club department and occasionally in the cellar during harvest. I can proudly say that all of my experience has
served me well and my focus is now on operational strategy, winery technology, wine club set up and hospitality improvements. Below, you will find my tips for developing a great wine club:
- Make sure that you have an easy to use website that allows members and first-time customers to easily place orders, update their contact information and check shipping status. This not only provides an exceptional customer service experience but also streamlines order processing on the back-end.
- Be sure that you have the right technology to keep up with demand. You don’t want your club members order to time-out after five minutes while entering their order information in your online store. There are many ways to ensure your website can handle the traffic and the wine orders coming in. Equally important is making sure that your allocations are reflected on your site, and that customers aren’t trying to order a varietal/vintage that you no longer have in stock.
- Staff training and positive feedback is sometimes overlooked but extremely important. Make sure that the goals your management team sets are achievable, so that your staff doesn’t panic if what they are supposedto do and what they are able to do are two different things. When needed, offer real-time coaching. Wine education and customer relationship building, down to the minutia of a club member’s visit, is key, and there are so many ways to take advantage of your resources at hand.
- Make all club members feel like VIPs. When club members come in unannounced, make them feel like you are truly happy to see them.
- Provide world-class hospitality. Those three words together carry a lot of gravity. It’s not just being courteous to someone, as you might be at a drive-thru, it is making their visit special, and going beyond the call of duty. It’s ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. It’s making memories for a lifetime.
- Don’t allow one bad apple to spoil the whole barrel. Sometimes “over-served” guests will visit, and when they do, use tact when dealing with them. Have a plan in place for such occasions. First, make sure to show respect for the other guests by leading your “rowdy” party into a private area, or on a tour, away from your other guests. Next, speak to their designated driver and explain the situation. Not everyone likes to hear they are being cut-off, but the driver is likely more reasonable and can explain it to them. Give them a small gift, or free tasting passes for another day. There are kind and considerate ways to handle these situations and provide a positive experience. Try to stay light-hearted and cheerful with them. Remember, they may also be club members.
- When meeting guests for the first time, ask questions and don’t just spout off information. What does the customer standing in front of you like? You wouldn’t want to spend 15 minutes talking about a varietal they aren’t interested in when the next wine on the menu is their favorite, but now you are running out of time, so you gloss over the one they came in to purchase.
- Crowd control, low pressure club sales, easy to understand tasting menus, special pours, tours, history, interesting stories, etc., are takeaways that are achievable and memorable to your guests.
An important piece of an effective operational strategy is building solid hospitality programs and training staff on the processes and procedures as well as hiring people who want to be there. To learn more about operational strategy, training services, and technology improvements, contact Dina L. Northcutt HERE.