Customer Service – A Dying Trade

After a visit to the DMV this week, I realized that customer service is not something that the DMV strives for. Sure, the average DMV employee (at the branch offices) likely deals with a lot of stupid questions (and people), but that doesn’t mean that they need to be rude or not helpful. This person I dealt with was both.

But it’s not just at the DMV that there’s a lack of customer service. I also see it at the grocery store, the bank, at fast food restaurants and even non-fast food restaurants. Everywhere really. It makes me wonder, “Is customer service a dying trade?”

I hope not. I’ve worked in retail just about my entire life and I’ve always tried to bring excellent customer service to the guests, customers and clients I’ve helped over the years. For the past four years, I’ve been working in and managing wine tasting rooms in which I’ve prided myself on providing excellent hospitality. I’ve worked very hard to ensure my employees are also providing a level of hospitality that goes above and beyond the customer’s expectations. No, I’m not boasting – it’s true.

At the end of a tasting (after the sale), I usually ask where the guests are headed next. I’m actually curious. Most of the time they have somewhere in mind, but they are almost always wanting to know where I would send them. So, I make a few suggestions of other wineries they could visit. I’ve gone as far as calling other tasting rooms and letting them know these guests are on their way. I’ve also made dinner and hotel reservations for guests. Those are things that I would consider going above and beyond, all in the interest of the customer. There’s nothing in it for me other than ensuring their happiness.

I’ve seen a lot of great customer service / hospitality offered in tasting rooms I’ve visiting over the years. But I’ve also seen some really horrible hospitality too. So, it makes me wonder, “How important is the service you receive in a tasting room?” Does it affect your decision on returning? Or is the quality of wine enough to bring you back again? I’m really curious. What makes you return to a tasting room?

Have we become so immune to poor customer service that we just don’t care anymore? Has it gotten to the point where come to expect it? I hope not.

In the tasting room, tips (monetary) have always been a good indicator that we’re doing our job right. Not everyone tips (and you shouldn’t unless you receive an outstanding experience), but it’s been a good gauge for me on how the staff (and me) are doing.

Tips are certainly just one factor though. Verbal thank you’s work just fine in my book. You don’t have to shell over money to tell me what a great job I did. And I’m not talking about the casual ‘thanks’. I mean a true ‘thank you, what a great time we had’! Written thank you cards go a long way in my book too. I received one today. You know, a real handwritten old-fashioned thank you card sent through the mail. Amazing.

Maybe customer service does still exist in some industries, but I still fear it’s a dying breed. I’m not sure it’s being taught anymore by companies. There is a certain respect that goes along with customer service. You need to respect your fellow humans and yourself. With a high level of pride (I’m not talking ego), the customer service should just come naturally. And maybe that’s it. Maybe we’re just not as proud of a nation as we used to be. I certainly don’t think we have the respect for each other that we used to have.

I only hope that in the wine industry (and everywhere else) we continue to focus our efforts on making people happy. Because at the end of the day, that’s all anyone really wants – happiness. I love the wine business because people come to the winery happy. People are in a great mood. Sure, they’ve sometimes had some wine somewhere else that’s making them extra happy, but it’s a great place for people to forget their daily lives (likely filled with disappointing customer service).

So, I proudly say that I’m in the business of making people happy – and business is booming!





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