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Carl Hudson
July 7, 2018 | Wine "Fun" Facts | Carl Hudson

Customer Service in the Tasting Room

One of the best sessions at the Texas Hill Country Wineries (THCW) Symposium, held 11,12-Jan-2018 at Horseshoe Bay Resort, was a guided panel discussion on Customer Service in the Winery Tasting Room.  I have been in this business long enough to understand how important customer service is to an enjoyable wine country experience.  And, it is one of the three key parts of a great winery/tasting room experience that includes a first-class location with an inviting and comfortable tasting room, top-quality wines, and great customer service. 

Some good discussion and important examples were presented by panel members and audience participants at the THCW Symposium.  The following categories were noted as keys to good customer service, or bad customer service if they are lacking.  Just read through these and see if you agree.  Also, think about what makes you enjoy going to winery tasting rooms, and even prompt you to becoming a Wine Club member at your favorites. 

A pleasant and timely greeting from the staff should happen as soon as you enter a tasting room or outside tasting area.  Many of the best tasting rooms employ a greeter or receptionist to handle this good customer service requirement.  Sometimes this person will also be involved in ushering you to an available tasting spot, and introducing you to the tasting room associate that will guide you.  During busy times, when a tasting spot is not immediately available, the greeter or host will place your name on a reservation list, and then alert you when a tasting spot becomes available.  All of this represents courteous behavior, and should help make your tasting room experience a positive one. 

Well-designed tasting rooms that are comfortable, and provide ample and efficient tasting space are another important contributing factor to a good customer service experience.  A first-class tasting room should have strong, positive visual appeal, and make you feel good – both physically and emotionally. 

A well-designed tasting list is another part of good customer service, even though most of us would not think about its importance.  The cost of a tasting and the number of wines included should be easily discerned.  The list should be easy to understand, and should clearly define the types of wines being offered for tasting.  One thing that frustrates me at a tasting room is a huge list of wines from which five or six are to be chosen for tasting.  If it is not easy to understand the types of wines (think white, rose’, red, sweet, semi-sweet, dry, big, bold, etc.), and the level of quality of wines (think good, better and best quality), then how is one, especially one without relatively extensive wine knowledge, expected to pick wines that will maximize the tasting experience?

Without question, the most important part of customer service is the staff, the people that actually deal with customers and guide their tastings.  Servers with a friendly personality and positive attitude are critical.  Servers should have sound knowledge of the wines being offered, and be able to provide appropriate information as they guide customers through the tasting.  Sound training practices are very important to developing a good tasting room team that can deliver top-notch customer service.  In discussions with many tasting room managers, this point comes up early and often.  Having personable, knowledgeable staff, and plenty of them to handle the customer load at any particular tasting room, is paramount to the concept of good customer service. 

Developing a process that provides ease of purchase & checkout is very important in a tasting room.  Getting “hung up” in trying to pay for the tasting, and wines or products if purchasing, can significantly degrade the overall experience. 

Finally, making the Wine Club presentation to customers should be practiced, simplified and as low key as possible.  Being pushed into a wine club, if one has no interest, is an unpleasant experience.  Servers should be able to “read” the customer’s interest in hearing about the wine club, and tailor the presentation accordingly.  For the staff, it takes time, effort and practice to do this well, but good people can and will learn how.  And, here again, good training practices are important.  

Hopefully this post has highlighted key points required to deliver top-quality customer service in a winery tasting room.  Think about your own experiences, great, good or not-so-good, and how they relate to these points.  My recommendation is to get out there, visit as many wineries and tasting rooms as you can, and support those that provide the best overall wine country experiences by practicing top-quality customer service. 


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