Corks and People


I recently had the opportunity to go inside a winery and listen to an assistant winemaker provide his insights into cork selection. It was fascinating to discover how that closure device can be a real pain. The argument is often made that the cork contributes to the romance and is an important part of the wine experience. On the flip side is how this small organic product can destroy the wine it is meant to protect.

As I listened to the extent quality control testing is done on corks before they are accepted in the bottling process I could only wonder…could a cork be like a winery’s sales team?

Just imagine you have planned for the “big night” for many months. You have the perfect menu your closest friends are coming over to celebrate with you. You go to your cellar and pull out that $100 bottle that you have been saving for “this special time”. You’re having a great time with your friends and family and you can’t wait to open that special bottle and share the story behind it. The cork is popped and the first splash hits the glass. You give it a swirl, nose in, ouch it couldn’t be, and you take a sip…ugh. It’s CORKED! What a disappointment. You saved this bottle for 10 years and it’s worthless. Now, substitute you in this story with a customer. How would they feel?

The cork cost less than $1 but it is given the responsibility to protect a $100 experience. So back to my question…could a cork be like a winery’s sales team?

The tasting room is bustling with visitors and if the sales people do it right, those visitors become customers. The tasting room team is on the frontline sharing stories, pouring, welcoming and so on. But what if like the cork they provide a bad experience to the visitors? What’s the risk? A potential sale, future customer, wine club member, future ambassador for the winery. Yes, all of these are on the line. So why is it that a winery will spend a lot of time making sure that cork taint is kept to a very low level but not invest in training their frontline team?

Customer service is what separates those in this ever increasing competitive landscape. I hear a lot of chatter that direct to consumer is the way to go. The accountant in me agrees…the numbers don’t lie. The key however is making sure the frontline team is protecting the winery’s investment and reputation just like that cork. The team makes up a small overall cost of the business but can deliver a very profitable result. So, if you’re not yet doing it, invest in customer service training for your employees. It will pay off in happier employees and long-term customers.

I invite you to join me in the near future as I continue to report my observations as I step out of my office and into the industry I admire and passionately want to serve.

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