Your wine club members joined your club for regular access to the wines they love, for the tailored customer service you offer and for the sense of belonging they experience at your winery. So when special requests come in from your members, it is important to try to accommodate them. However, as your wine club grows and your process remains the same, special accommodations can quickly become impossible. Requests such as order customizations, private tasting appointments, or unique payment and delivery preferences might start building up. Your winery needs to be equipped to know what specializations it can handle and what is not possible. Otherwise, customer inquiries will start to become overwhelming, fall through the cracks and result in dissatisfied members and in higher attrition rates.
That's why it's so important to make sure you have the business infrastructure to handle member preferences, even as your wine club grows. You'll need the technology to automate administrative processes and the right method to organize your requests. And you'll need the right-sized team to add the necessary personal touches that ensure your wine club members are heard and completely pleased with their wine club experience.
Start With Process
If you're experiencing difficulty with wine club management and the range of custom inquiries coming from your wine club members, don't panic. Approach the challenge by first considering your system for processing these requests. Nothing will get done if they aren't organized and processed correctly. It isn't realistic for your team members (or you) to expect to immediately handle each inquiry as it arises. A tight turnaround like that doesn't account for the cross referencing that might need to occur with fulfillment houses, carriers or the greater team.
Whether you store task information in an Excel sheet or in a task-listed platform, organizing these requests in a way where your wine club staff can go through and check off each one as it is fulfilled or responded to will be the first crucial piece in avoiding missteps. Organization will lead to better management of special inquiries and increased efficiency for your wine club.
It will also be important to consider the methods by which your members communicate with you. When avenues of communication are open to phone, email, text, or even social media, the likelihood of requests falling through the cracks will increase. Pick the methods of communication that will work best for you, match your brand, and match your members' preferred use. Some wineries choose to use exclusively phone and email so they have the opportunity to add the personal touch that is important to them. Others use their website for form submissions or even chat bot requests in order to reduce the barriers for their members to get in touch. Whatever methods you choose, stick to those for a decent length of time in order to reduce miscommunication and confusion. Of course, you can always reassess these channels when you have an inkling your customers' communication styles are evolving, or when you feel realistically enabled to manage four or five avenues of communication.
If you've implemented a process for handling special inquiries and are still experiencing difficulty managing them, then consider where you can automate or aid your process via technology.
A common special request that can cause a headache without technology? Modifying shipment dates. If a member will be out of town or needs their shipment for a special event, that's pretty reasonable. But what if at least one, different customer requested a unique shipping date each time you sent a shipment? Without the ability to automate these shipment modifications and house the data in a centralized platform, it's likely you won't be able to keep up. Implementing technology that allows you to avoid sifting through pages of excel spreadsheets to modify shipment dates or to change wine choices is an excellent step toward better wine club management.
Invest in Employees
At the end of the day, two key reasons why many of your members joined your wine club was for the sense of belonging and for the superb hospitality. So, while process and technology will reduce the friction in managing their requests, it will be important for you to properly staff your wine club team with people who can add the necessary personal touch to the customer experience. When you hire genuine, hospitable, go-the-extra-mile team members, your team will be better able to engage with wine club members and exceed their expectations with personality, ease and enthusiasm.
It will also be important as your wine club grows to remember that it is OK if not every request is reasonable for you to accomplish, or beneficial to your business. Train your staff on how to best communicate in a scenario where a shipment change is not reasonable or possible to accommodate. Use friendly reminders to communicate to your members that you would love to accommodate them as much as you can and explain why some requests aren't possible. The more your members understand and the more transparency you offer, the more they will trust your brand and your word — and the more inclined they will be to remain members for a long time to come.