Curtis Strohl, general manager at B Cellars, and Sam Aragon, director of strategy and analytics for Rombauer, recently spoke at the Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium and shared advice about embracing technology and using customer data wisely.
Remember that CRM is an investment
Interested in data analysis? Aragon and Strohl both said it’s going to take time, money and outside help to get things going.
“We wanted to put new DTC practices in place and this was a winery with ownership who was ready to put some money behind it,” Strohl said. “If you’re a wine geek, you’re going to want to become a data geek too.”
Strohl didn’t disclose what B Cellars spent, but he said the process involved changing software, updating e-commerce platforms and redefining roles and positions in a way that allowed the winery to collect and utilize data.
He said it was important to understand two things: that you need professional help to get started and that it’s hard to find software that is optimized for wine businesses.
“One thing is for sure, there is no one out there who is going to do this for you,” Strohl said. “You’re going to need some outside help when dealing with tech and tech solutions. But the wine business is different from any other business and you’ve got to be proactive when deciding what your specific needs are and how you’re going to make it happen. The outside world has no idea.”
Aragon said they started broad and worked their way down en route to finding their CRM solution. It took about a year to get everything in place.
“We wanted to know customers more intimately — almost as friends, and my role was to help execute both from the tech standpoint and the practice standpoint,” he said. “We evaluated our technology and honed in on (potential) new e-commerce platforms and marketing automation that we didn’t have in place yet. We looked at types of vendors who could handle different roles for us, we evaluated the vendors, and we implemented the system.
“At every stage, we used score cards to evaluate. We put them up objectively and our team was able to determine which direction we wanted to go.”
Be patient with staff
Depending on your winery, your staff — especially your sales staff — may have differing degrees of tech savviness.
Implementing your new CRM tech, including new data entry responsibilities, may require some thinking outside the box.
“You need to have the carrot and the stick for the sales team,” Strohl said. “The carrot for the sales team is their commission, and the stick is that it’s part of your job and you have to do it.
“But there may be some data points that someone else (is better suited to get), like your concierge team and your management team. It’s not just sales people. Our customers are touched by the concierge two to three times per visit and the manager two to three times per visit. You don’t need to have someone under as much pressure as a salesperson.”
“It takes effort to read your team and understand who needs a little bit of help,” he said.
Conduct effective surveys
Strohl said a survey was a different way to find out what you could learn by simply listening to a customer.
“Listening to a customer is not an easy thing to do, but it is the core of customer service,” Strohl said. “ You have to shut your brain up and sit in the customer’s seat.
“They’re going to have a hard time articulating. It’s easy to become passionately involved in survey responses trying to defend what you did, and you have to stop that. If a customer took the time to tell you something was wrong because most people don’t tell you, they tell someone else.”
Aragon said using word clouds — either digitally via software or manually — could help owners determine common themes in survey results.
“Take all of the responses and put them into word clouds,” Aragon said. “See what the most frequent words are that guests are saying, and you might be surprised how often they’re talking about certain things.”