4 More Tips to Improve the Winery Visitor Experience
As we’ve previously reported, every so often a winery will miss the mark, causing a visitor to have a less than stellar time at the winery. Here are four more significant ways that establishments can work to improve their winery visitor experience.
Take a Hard Look at the Experience You’re Providing
We know that wineries all needed to pivot during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep visitors and staff safe. They reconfigured tasting rooms, moved to self-guided wine flights rather than crowded bar tastings, and swapped out glass stemware for disposable drinkware. Many wineries we’ve visited during the pandemic still provided a great visitor experience.
But one well-known, award-winning winery Doug and I visited recently really dropped the ball. It provided a flight of three wines in its wine tasting, but the wines were poured into the opaque tiny plastic medicinal cups that hospitals use to dispense medications, which looked both tacky and cheap. There was no way to view the wines’ colors or adequately smell the aromas.
The pourer then took two paper plates, wrote down the varietals we had chosen, placed the cups on the plates, and sent us upstairs to a “lounge” to drink. While the downstairs tasting room is pretty, the lounge consisted of several run-down bridge chairs and folding tables, with an old couch in the corner. We weren’t told anything about the wines or the winery, nor given anything to guide us through the tasting. And this was in 2022, when most COVID-19 restrictions had already been lifted.
This experience was so negative that we didn’t finish our wine and left quickly. A local later told us that the winery was resting on its laurels. If it keeps this up, it’s going to really tarnish its reputation.
Don’t Hard Sell the Wine Club
Joining a wine club can be a great move for a consumer; we have joined several wineries’ wine clubs after enjoying a wine tasting there. Guests receive shipments from the winery throughout the year and may receive certain discounts or access to special events. Wine club memberships also benefit the winery, providing regular, ongoing sales, enabling it to showcase new or unique creations, and fostering a loyal following.
But there’s a difference between mentioning or recommending the wine club to a visitor and pressuring a visitor to sign up.
My mother and I recently visited a winery that she liked so much she decided to join the wine club, and picked up the wine club brochure to review the options. Our server, seeing our interest in the wine club, moved into overdrive, telling us that we had to join immediately or else lose out on certain discounts that would no longer be available once we left the premises.
The hard sell was a huge turnoff and backfired. We paid for our tastings and left. My mother ended up joining the wine club of the very next winery we went to, which didn’t pressure us whatsoever. She is still a member of that club today.
Many places can improve their winery visitor experience by teaching their staff how to avoid being overly pushy with guests. We have visited many other vineyards and tasting rooms where the server recommended joining the wine club or suggested add-ons without negatively impacting our experience.
Instruct Staff on How to Ring up a Sale
We’ve had plenty of servers in the tasting room who are new, and there’s nothing wrong with being new to wine or to a specific winery. However, wineries should ensure that new staff know how to ring up sales, so they can be ready to do so once they start.
We recently visited a winery where our server informed us that it was her first week on the job. She was very pleasant, and actually was pretty knowledgeable about the wine. We liked it so much we decided to purchase a case, along with some accessories.
And that’s where things got messy. She could not operate the point of sale system and did not understand how shipping worked. After numerous attempts and a few mistakes she eventually called over a more experienced employee to ring up the purchase (taking him away from his guests).
What should have taken two minutes took about 20; we almost gave up. She also bungled the shipment itself, which was incomplete when it arrived. We eventually straightened things out, but it was a little frustrating and made the winery look unprofessional.
A little bit of training on the sales and shipping systems can help a winery’s staff succeed with customers and leave guests with a positive impression.
4. Customer Service
Don’t Make a Visitor Feel Unwanted
We normally make reservations when a winery requires or prefers them, and certainly understand when it cannot squeeze in a walk-in customer.
But another way we’ve seen wineries mismanage the visitor experience is when they make a would-be visitor feel unwelcome.
On a recent trip, Doug and I detoured to a winery not on our original itinerary only because a different winery we were visiting strongly suggested that we visit. We did not know that reservations were recommended at the winery we detoured to.
When we arrived – decently dressed and well-mannered – the receptionist told us we could not be seated for a wine tasting because reservations for them at that time were all booked.
Fair enough, but she also didn’t offer to check to see if there was an opening later on or the next day, which we could have considered. When we asked if we could sit at the bar or lounge areas, where there were plenty of seats available, she coldly told us that those seats were not for wine tastings, only for buying glasses or bottles. She didn’t suggest that we do that, either, even though we would have been happy trying the wines that way. We felt that she just wanted us to leave, so we did. The winery lost goodwill as well as the opportunity to make some money.
Even if a winery is unable to accommodate a guest, staff should still treat the guest with respect, not rudeness. Establishments that fail to treat would-be guests kindly will have a long way to go in improving their winery visitor experience.
Do you have any other advice about how to improve the winery visitor experience? Have any horror stories to share? Send us a message at email@example.com. Always feel free to reach out to us with any questions or feedback.
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