June 18, 2013

There is ALWAYS ROI in Talking to Your Customers

The number one conversation about social media always ends with “what is the ROI.”  It is a reasonable question and while I think there are lots of answers to the question, there is one prevailing truth: there is ALWAYS ROI in talking to your customers.  First, social media is, at its essence, a communication channel.  Just like the phone, email, fax, carrier pigeon or smoke signals, when a customer reaches out to you through these channels you respond.  You don’t ask the ROI, you just take care of your customers.

“It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.” – Henry Ford

Social media at its foundation is about human interactions.  Too many of us strive to chase the homerun marketing campaign like Old Spice, wish that social media would work like the “spray and pray” methodologies of email marketing, or wish that we could buy a adwords on Google and wait for the cash register to start ringing.  The wine industry is experiencing the most competitive environment in human history.  I say that again, the wine industry is experiencing the most competitive environment in human history.  And its only getting harder.

What amazes me is how many wineries allow these key communication channels to go unanswered.  It is like having a giant answering machine and never listening to the messages, much less responding. Alan Baker of Cartograph wines inspires me to surface the positive examples as well as the ones that are less than shining examples.

Jerry Gregoire, 47, chief information officer at Dell, puts it this way: “The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.”

Fortunately I have one of the best anecdotes (and I would LOVE for other wineries, consumers to share yours) that happened with me.  I was having a casual lunch at Barndiva in Healdsburg.  A warm day, a wonderful lunch and I decided on a glass of Ramey Chardonnay.  I don’t often tweet about wine but when I do, I often vacillate between mentioning the winery by its Twitter handle and just by their name. In this particular case I was truly enjoying the wine and not testing to see if the winery was listening–it was simply worth mentioning the wine name because it was a great day, great food, and great wine.  To my surprise, David Ramey (a true wine industry legend) tweeted something very simple to me just the next day. He said, “thank you.”


Soon after I also got a great response from the winery:


Yes, I know that David doesn’t tweet that often.  That’s ok.  It made me feel even more special that he chose me to thank.  The excellent follow-up from the winery made me feel that they cared about my enjoyment of the wine.

“In a world of infinite wine choices, service is the only differentiator.” – Me

So where was the ROI?  Let me continue the story.  A few weeks later I was at Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck) and was buying wine.  I started with one bottle that led to two, and then there was another interesting wine that made it three.  Before I knew it I had five bottles in my cart.  Well, as everyone knows six bottles gives you a 10% discount.  Whole Foods (in Napa) has a pretty solid selection of wines.  You can choose from all kinds of bubbles, great whites like Le Cigare Blanc from Bonny Doon, Côtes de Tablas Blanc from Tablas Creek, and on and on and on.  But when my eyes rested on the 2009 Ramey, my choice was obvious.  I remembered the kind thank you from David and the winery.  But my story doesn’t end there.  This weekend the same dilemma occurred at Napa Safeway (another market with a fine selection of wine).  We were shopping for wines for a comparative chardonnay tasting.  Five bottles in and the same choice to acquire the discount and my choice for the sixth bottle was . . . yep, you guessed it, 2010 Ramey Chardonnay.

So collectively I spent over $75 on Ramey’s brand (the first glass of wine then two repeat purchases) because they acknowledged me as a customer.  Well done Ramey, well done.

In stark contrast to my experience, our CTO James Jory has been a wine club member of Navarro since 1991 (his brother in-law has been a member even longer and his father & mother in-law have been members since 1981). Without backwards adjustment for price increases or any of the additional orders he has made over the years on top of his automatic shipments, James’ lifetime value for just being a club member is $2400. To add to this James is an avid fan and often champions Navarro wines at our dinner parties, barbeques, visits to friends homes and more. On June 4th, he expressed his joy at recieving his shipment on Twitter.


On June 13th he spoke at the Shipcompliant conference to a fairly large winery audience and mentioned how his tweet had gone unheard or worse yet, with no response. Three more days passed, or 11 days after his tweet, and they responded:

He replied and a day later they gave a timely and appreciative response.


Now, Navarro is a great winery and it is fantastic that they responded (there are MANY more egregious examples of wineries that never respond). The reality is that James is a great customer of that winery and he was almost ignored. That little “thank you” retained his loyalty especially in a world where he has infinite choices of wine on which he can spend his hard earned money. Kudos to Navarro for responding (albeit late and apparently without context to his value to their winery).

Make no mistake, selling wine and customer relationship management is hard work. Despite the allure, it is not all rainbows and unicorns, especially in this competitive environment.  It is hard work, trench warfare where the reality of success is the culmination of lots and lots of small victories.  Where each customer that you acquire (and more importantly retain) is like drops of water in the desert.  Where every relationship you create needs to be carefully nurtured so that it grows to fruition.  Where the certificate of your success is measured by the receipts from satisfied customers.  Where the first sale is only the beginning of the relationship.

CRM is not software, it is a culture – VinTank

In the end, the statement still stands. No matter what the communication channel (the phone, fax, email, a blog post, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc, etc, etc) there is ALWAYS ROI in talking to your customers.

  • Alan & Serena

    Thanks Paul, even more potent that it’s your experience that proves the point. Important to remember that a timely response is as important as responding at all.

  • Jim Goodman

    As the owner of Cor.kz, a mobile wine app, not necessarily a wine, I find it essential to talk to customers. It lets us know where our weaknesses are, helps us solve problems, and all in all make better software. The customers like it to, feeling like they are being listened to and that they aren’t just dealing with a “wall”.

    We’re not always perfect in our communication (response time, answers, help, etc. isn’t always what the customer wants), but we try and that’s the important part :-)! Always room for better/more, but not talking with your customers is just suicide!

  • Jason Haas

    Thanks, Paul. Totally on point. Nice, too, to hear that you found Tablas Creek at your Napa Whole Foods… nothing like selling coal to (in?) Newcastle!

  • Ashley Pengilly

    Every interaction you make builds a better relationship with your customer/s. And while you build those relationships, you are investing in word-of-mouth marketing (which happens to be the most powerful form of brand reach). Although we enjoy creative content developed by our favorite brands; it is the present AND responsive brands online that are undeniably gathering a better return on investment. Social has slowly outlined a unique balance of content, strategy and CRM which differs by brand and industry.

    Consumer Brand Engagement + Business Response = Happy Customer + Valuable Customer

    Great write up!

  • Every opportunity we have to talk to our customers is a good one.

    At its core its that simple.

  • Alexandra O’Gorman

    Congratulations on a great article Paul. Thank you for showcasing Ramey Wine Cellars and your positive experience with our brand and our wines. We strive for quality interactions with both, and we appreciate your recognition.

  • Anonymous

    This happened as well.

  • Anonymous

    Which inspired this . . .

  • Pingback: The Hunt for ROI – Social Media Meets E-Commerce – The Buzz Bin()

  • Pingback: There is ALWAYS ROI in Talking to Your Customer...()

  • You can be focused on customer service in terms of your ecommerce website by using social media, a customer service email account and a phone line to ensure all customer issues are dealt with appropriately. Social media has been a huge factor for dealing with customer service, that’s probably your best bet.

For Your Continued Enjoyment...

December 21, 2012

Waiting for Godot...

“Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes.” – Estragon – Waiting for Godot As we approach 2013 we spent... more

September 9, 2012

Link-diving, Texture, and about inventing new...

Social Listening, Social Media Management, Social Customer Relationship Management, and social media in general are... more

August 11, 2012

Raising our game . . . again. More Foursquar...

Sometimes you hit a stride and we are hitting a whole new velocity for improving... more

August 8, 2012

Letting Our Customers Speak for Us...

Instead of talking about our all our new upgrades and what we think of our... more