By Rod Hughes
Like every other industry, wineries are facing staffing and supply shortages as well as hard-to-source equipment parts and increased shipping costs. However, customers don’t want excuses and business owners must act to attract and maintain customers despite these challenges.
To keep and win customers, expectations must be set early. In the past 6 months or so, countless retailers have prepared their customers to recognize the impact of staffing and supply chain shortages. Herein lies a lesson for wineries, which must clearly and openly communicate how these shortages are affecting their business.
The first step is to qualify the impact these challenges are having on the business. If the result is limited or inconsistent hours of operation, creating messaging to address this concern and getting it to customers — proactively — is a must. No one wants to make the drive to a winery only to be met by a sign that reads, “Due to staffing shortages, we will be closed today.”
Using the winery’s Google Business page, website, social media, newsletter and loyalty program mailing lists, winery owners should communicate the impact of limited staffing. Some variation on the following language is recommended for emails, newsletters and social media:
“Like many businesses across the country, we are managing the labor shortage by offering competitive wages, benefits and training. As we work to hire and train our future team members, we ask for your patience as we temporarily reduce our hours. Doing so ensures we maintain excellent customer service, support our loyal and outstanding employees, and take the time necessary to train new team members to love what they do as well as provide the customer service experience you’ve come to expect of us. Please visit us online (ADD LINKS TO WEBSITE AND SOCIAL MEDIA) for any changes to our hours of operation or capacity. Meanwhile, if you know someone who might make a great addition to our team, please invite them to apply here [LINK TO JOB AD OR ONLINE APPLICATION].”
The additional time taken to update the winery’s hours on all its online channels can go a long way toward maintaining customer satisfaction.
Similar messaging should be created if supply shortages or rising costs are impacting capacity or pricing — preferably before a customer arrives on the property.
Customers will have questions, complaints or even write undesirable reviews when staffing and supply chain issues impact their experience. Again, the best approach is a direct one.
While focusing on the positive, winery owners should answer questions, complaints and reviews honestly. The best responses often entail taking responsibility, apologizing where necessary, and — most important — noting what actions are being taken to avoid similar issues in the future. Customers appreciate honesty without excuses, so long as real work is being done to address the underlying problem(s).
Don’t forget, the challenges facing the winery are also challenges facing the winery’s staff. Honest conversations with employees can help resolve concerns and help vest employees in finding better solutions.
These conversations must be intentional. Team meetings are an essential part of this effort. Employees need to be given the opportunity to provide input and suggestions. Be honest about the challenges facing the winery, but do so with messaging that includes a plan to address those problems and an openness to incorporating other approaches.
Just as good wine cannot be made without sugar and yeast, a successful winery cannot function without communication among its customers and employees. With the right balance of thoughtful communication and creative, inclusive problem solving, a communications strategy can help to overcome the challenges of 2022 and beyond.
Rod Hughes is president and principal with Kimball Hughes Public Relations. A former journalist and frequent public speaker, he can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at (610) 559-7585.