I was conducting a winery assessment of a Yountville winery recently and one aspect of the work is to call and ask a few questions about tasting fees, appointments, wines on offer and the like. When someone takes time out of their day to find your number and give you a call, it is pure gold. Think about what you have going on in your day today. If you should find yourself calling a business, you are already invested and have made a commitment. It’s a glorious opportunity for the recipient of your call to make good on that momentum. Especially in the wine business where the caller probably has 200 other perfectly reasonable options within 30 minutes’ drive. I don’t care whether you are a doctor’s office, a plumber, or a winery, a telephone call is something to be celebrated, to be reveled in, and to be validated.
I learned this 30 years ago when we had a theatrical walking tour business in Edinburgh, Scotland. We realized that the first call was in fact the beginning of the show. The tone we set in that telephone call was a way of calibrating the anticipation that the audience member (and their guests) had as they walked up to the start of the tour. It was partly our personality but it was just good business sense also. It is a real craft, connecting with people, trying to find a way to make that short exchange original and personable while still achieving your business objectives. The quality of your service, or your wine and what it tastes like, depends on how the customer feels about you. That is not wishful thinking that is a scientific fact. How your wine is going to taste starts with that phone call. Why would you want to diminish that opportunity?
Meanwhile on the phone the recipient of my call at the Yountville winery is clearly bored and wants off the call as I ask all the obvious questions. Not rude, just engaging enough to deliver the plate, but no love for the dish or pleasure in the the act of feeding a hungry soul.
I loved caller ID when it came along – it gives you a little performer advantage. A very classy local husband and wife travel operator used to call a winery I worked at sometimes. I would see their name come up and grab the phone. They called wineries all day long, aging gracefully on various phone trees around the Wine Country. I would pause deeply, sigh, then announce the business name, followed by “…where we strive for life’s treasures…” or “…where the simple life is complicated…” or some other spontaneous thought. It was self-indulgent, but it kept me sharp and they sent a huge amount of great business our way. The purists might be horrified, but they were professionals and knew the quality they were getting on site. I can’t prove it but I hope that the humanity of that exchange meant that when they lifted the phone to call, their mind was set at a different angle. Set in an inclination to feel good, and influence subtly, in due course, their guests to also feel good about us. If you are a winery just think of that first telephone call as the first sip, how do you want it to taste? If you are not a winery think of it as the beginning of your show.
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