Do Phone Trees belong in Wineries?

DTC Wine WorkshopsWant to understand why customers and members call your winery?  Want to have more meaningful conversations with your loyal customers and fans? Want to create a memorable experience the first time a visitor interacts with your staff? Answer the phone. 

[February 16, 2015 – San Francisco, CA] We have seen the results of the 2015 Direct Wine Shipping Report from ShipCompliant – direct to consumer wine shipment values increased 15.5% to $1.82 billion.  Wine producers have the best opportunity in history to increase profits through the DTC sales channel. Now is the time to conduct an internal audit and identify ways in which every member of your hospitality and direct wine sales teams can create an exceptional customer experience.

In many cases, the first-time a new visitor interacts with your wine brand is through the winery website or social media outlets.  Can callers access your mobile-optimized phone number through their smartphone or tablet from the website home page?  Is your phone number displayed in a visible and friendly manner on the home page or is it hidden behind two or three drill downs?   

In conducting audits on behalf of a variety of wine brands, we have found that often times, visitors call the winery hospitality team to get information about visitor hours, tasting experience offerings, upcoming events, etc. An important question we ask our clients to address when developing high-touch consumer experience is: “Do first-time visitors get a friendly voice or the dreaded Phone Tree?”  If your first-time guests are getting the phone tree treatment, it’s time to rethink WHY your business needs this tool.  To do that, let’s look at the latest definition of Phone Tree to better understand it’s purpose:

phone tree
1. a menu-driven system that routes callers to recordings, more menus, or a person, depending on their responses.
2. a system for contacting a large number of people quickly in which each person called then telephones a number of other designated people.

Unless you have multiple locations with 50+ members of the hospitality team whom each have their own direct extensions, there is no need for a phone tree at your winery.  I encourage you to conduct the following audit for three months:

1.  Unplug the phone tree (if already in place).  Ensure that you have live coverage during business hours. Setup a friendly outgoing message for after-hours that includes informative information about how to visit and buy direct.

2.  Create a phone log. Ideally this is this an Excel spreadsheet or a shared Google Doc. If not super tech savvy, this log can be a simple binder or notepad with four columns.  Ask everyone who answers the phone to log these four items:

  • Call date/time with customer support reps initials or name. 
  • Who called by customer type (member, prospective visitor, repeat customer, member of the press, VIP, etc.)
  • Why (what was the purpose of the call – visitor options, membership update, online order questions, event tickets, etc.)
  • Call outcome (how was the customer taken care of and were questions/requests handled? Any next steps?

At the end of three months, understand when you had peak call hours, who called most often by customer type, why customers called by customer type and and how the customer service rep provided a solution/next step. 

3.  Take time to analyze the outcomes.  Were the majority of calls from club members?  Was the outcome positive?  Did they make a tasting reservation, RSVP for an event, make appointment for a tasting experience, or ask about ordering wine direct?  If you had a large volume of first-time guests calling, were they asking about private tastings, group visits or types of visitor experiences offered? This insight is so valuable in identifying what your loyal members and first-time visitors want from their experience with your wine brand.

If you want to go beyond the three-month, test period, I encourage you to:

1.  Allocate one dedicated customer service staff member to answer phones and work as a “concierge” to ensure that every caller has an exceptional experience. Cleary define goals/ measures of success for this position and be sure to pay on each new sale completed, each new membership closed, each event ticket sold and reservation booked. The income generated through this position should be easy to track through the order management system at the Sales Associate level when transactions are placed through the admin panel. Try to also quantify the value of live phone support when it comes to member retention numbers and customer satisfaction ratings. 

2.  Set up your after-hours outgoing message with the same friendly voice and be sure to include information about your tasting room hours, address, and contact information to book a tasting experience or RSVP for an event.  You may want to even include an invitation to the next upcoming event in the outgoing greeting.

3.  Use a simple CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tracking system for all call-ins.  Quickly look up the caller by the incoming phone number to see if they exist in your system.  If not, enter their name once you have it and be sure to add a quick note to their customer profile about the call.  In many cases, your order management system can be used as your CRM system since you can look up callers in many ways. The money you will save removing your phone tree can be invested in a revenue growing technology such as a full-service order management software solution. If you have questions about the top-rated solutions by winery size/model, feel free to reach out. 

I would enjoy hearing about the results of your three-month test!  Send me a note HERE to set up time to chat.  


Sandra Hess


About Sandra Hess

Sandra Hess, founder of DTC Wine Workshops and the DTC Consultant Network is a public speaker on the subject of direct to consumer wine sales and customer retention in the US.