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Asking for a friend – Do you have what it takes?

We’ve been hearing that hiring has been nothing short of exhausting and exhaustive.  There has been a surge in seldom leveraged tactics, at least in the DTC space, between huge boosts in hourly pay rates and signing bonuses.  This never-before-seen job market leans toward those seeking jobs and employers have stiff competition.

One thing to bear in mind is that while hiring might be a big, glaring crisis, the customer shouldn’t feel it.  Customers are looking to get back out in a big way and just because staffing is light, doesn’t mean the expectations have similarly dipped.  On the contrary – as a result of the pandemic, customers want better, simpler, quicker service and have less patience for deviations.  From our own Mystery Shopping program, we’ve seen tasting room staff stepping up their game.  Here are our key takeaways from 5,000 shoppers’ reports.  (Note – percentages indicated is the percent of shoppers reporting the mentioned occurrence).

  • Guest Satisfaction is up in a big way. The average guest experience into 2019 was 3.3 out of 5. During 2020 and year to date, our shoppers reported 4.1 out of 5. This likely attributable to a Covid pivot: seated, scheduled tastings. These reservation-only tastings have allowed for staff to plan, prepare, and execute tastings at a higher level. This also could mean that staff has been able to take breaks and lunches (at all and on-time) which helps with energy levels, morale, and retention.
  • Where there was a dip in wine club presentations within a tasting in 2020, we’ve seen a huge leap in 2021, surpassing 2019’s number! In 2019, tasting room hosts effectively presented the wine club to guests 29% of the time; in 2020, hosts presented 16%; year to date, we’re seeing presentation at 41% across all regions (WA, OR, CA).While there’s still a lot being left on the table, it’s encouraging to see this increase. 2020 was likely a big dip because pitching wine club virtually can be challenging and for those on property, staff was likely feeling a little gun-shy asking for the financial commitment in unstable times. We’re thrilled that staff has gotten their grove back and are asking for the sign-up!
  • Asking for the sale is on a steady climb. From 55% in 2019, 61% in 2020, and up to 69% so far in 2021, it’s fantastic to see consistent progress made on this front. Asking for the sale is part of great service – it’s matchmaking of their needs to our portfolios.
  • Data Collection efforts leave a lot to be desired. These have hovered between 29-33% from 2019 through now. If Covid has taught us anything, it’s the invaluable worth of clean data collected. Are we sharing the ‘big picture’ of why collecting contact data is so important and giving our teams the tools to do it easily? Why haven’t we got better at this with lessons learned about relying on our tasting rooms for revenue?

We’d love to hear from you all and create a discussion to share the tips and tricks of what’s worked for you (and what hasn’t too!).

Are these hiring strategies (elevated pay, signing bonuses) here to stay or will they be phased out after busy season?

What other creative tactic have you found helpful to hire and/or retain staff?

Jennifer Warrington
Author: Jennifer Warrington

Jennifer is a marketing professional with 20 years of experience in the wine industry, including 9 years with WISE. She began her career in the wine industry working for Lesley Berglund at Ambrosia Wine Catalogue/The Winetasting Network shortly after completing her BA in English Literature. Over the course of her career, she has developed expertise in project management, market research, copywriting, and editing. Today – working again with Lesley – in her role as The Glue, Jennifer: oversees WISE Operations which includes spearheading the WISE Mystery Shopping Program (now over 4,000 shops); account management of WISE wineries; conducts market research; implements marketing programs; coordinates, schedules, and communicates with instructors, attendees and winery partners for a robust class schedule of 20+ courses and onsite training programs throughout California, Oregon, Washington, New York and more.

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