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Susan DeMatei
July 31, 2012 | Customer Support, Email Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Website Design | Susan DeMatei


I’m staying with my Mother in the hospital while she’s getting her knee replaced.

I’m exhausted.

She’s miserable.

So far, according to her, the room is too hot, her feet are too cold, the TV is too loud and has bad stations, the food is terrible, the bed sheets are scratchy and the pillows are lumpy. She can’t get comfortable, she can’t sleep, they wake her up to take her vitals too often and the nurse’s station is too loud.

Most of you are cringing while you read this and I do appreciate the offer on Twitter to Fed Ex me a care package of wine. But, I love my Mom, and I am not bothered… because I see how much pain she’s in. I mean, c’mon, they cut her open, broke her bones and put a ball bearing the size of a lemon in her leg. You can be a bitch in my book if you’re suddenly the bionic woman.

So, I’m fluffing pillows and monitoring IV bags and jumping up at every beep and whistle from the machines…because she’s my Mom.

Nurse Gina in Front of Our Room 411

Then, enter Gina, our night nurse. Who doesn’t know us from Adam, and is working 12-hour shifts dealing with 20 other patients who also need bedpans cleaned. And yet, she sees my Mom like I do, and is giving a MASTER CLASS in Customer Service at the moment.

Gina’s 411 on Customer Service from Room 411 of Ortho/Neuro

Here are three things I’ve learned from Gina this week:

Don’t judge.The blond walking into the tasting room wearing all of the patterns of Safari West in a pashmina and leggings holding a miniature poodle could be a serious big buyer. (Ok, no, she’s not, but you get the point.) Maybe profiling is helpful, but don’t generalize – try to specialize. Tailor your conversation. Don’t assume everyone cares about your % of malolactic fermentation and what kind of cow poo goes in the horn at the corner of a biodiymaic vineyard. (Conversely, don’t assume the young kid with the tattoos doesn’t – she could be a wine geek just as much as Mr.-Silver-Fox-Baby-Boomer sporting the Miami Vice suit next to her.) Talk with them to determine why they’re there – what they’re interested in (or not) and then form your interaction from there. Which brings me to..

It’s not about what you say, it’s about what they hear. Be flexible. You may have your history of the winery speech down, but talk with people, not at them. Nothing is worse when you’re on a wine tour and the tour guide gets a question and forgets where he/she was in the monologue! The best tour I was ever on was at Mumm. This poor tour guide had a group from Brazil, of which only one spoke English and was translating, my Mom and I (industry), and a group from Utah. (No lie. I would have killed whoever scheduled that tour for me as the guide, or just said screw it and walked along drinking calmly from the Cuvée.) But, she was a pro and did the generic tour for the newbies and the Brazilians, leaving time gaps for the Brazilain translator to re-tell her story in Portuguese while she gave little nerdy tid bits to Mom and I. Brilliant. It was a tad chaotic, but everyone had a good time. And, halfway through I noticed a second guide joined her in the progressive tour tasting to move things along. Not sure how she got word out that this tour was a challenge but they run a tight ship there at Mumm. Well done.

Mom and I at Mumm Winery.

Be compassionate. Ok, that may be a lot to ask in a tasting room, so how about be empathetic. The same way Gina realizes that the guy screaming obscenities at her next door is really just scared and in pain (and alone, no one has visited that poor man) you can realize that the bachelorette party wants to have a bit of fun (name this grape?) and the guy on a date wants to look good to his girl (don’t teach, let him describe the wine) and the wife who is bored might like to hear about the garden instead of the barrels. Whenever Gina walked in the room, no one else existed. I knew the chaos outside the door because whenever I left to go get my Mom water or a towel or to stretch my legs I saw how hard they worked on that floor. But, the room was a quiet, positive sanctuary to Mom and only Mom, and no one else mattered. I guess you could add “hide your back office” to this list. (I was once at a Starbucks and the register jammed, and all the counter workers stopped and started swearing and carrying on about how crappy the system was…to all the customers in line. I know they were embarrassed and trying to show that it wasn’t their fault, but they really didn’t need to vent to the customers. Bad Starbucks. But, I did get a coupon out of it for a free coffee.)

Because I just love to throw in CRM – I’ll bring up that Gina and her crew also demonstrated that data has a heart. Every time they did anything, they scanned my Mom’s bracelet and put it in the chart. You asked for more pain meds? In the chart. You made it 10 steps with the physical therapist? Chart. You ate half your dinner? Chart. You slept 4 hours. Yup. Chart. But, the result was that they never walked in with a dumb question and they knew her case. In fact, anyone with the chart knew everything she had felt, breathed, eaten, swallowed or slept. So, when they talked with her they could focus on her. How’s your pain? What can I do for you? What do you need right now? CRM on steroids.

My last one is a pet peeve – but Gina’s reminded me of it because I swear she now knows more about Mom and I than our husbands do – really talk to people. Don’t say “Can I help you”? That is never a good way to enter a room or start a conversation. Women know it is rhetorical, and men take it as a challenge. “Who, Me? No, I don’t need directions and I don’t need help.”

Instead, say hello. Ask how my day is, or how I’m doing, or where I’m from. Don’t let me off easy. I’m already in your tasting room, with cash in my pocket. I’m a qualified buyer who wants to be there. Engage me. Entertain me. Sell me.

My brothers-in-laws are nurses and they told me once that a good day was when a patient didn’t die, bleed, or throw up on them. In the wine industry we don’t have death (unless you seriously piss off the winermaker), and very rarely any bodily fluids, so you’d think we could muster up some customer service.

Why do you care?

You can charge More.

86% of consumers will pay more for a better customer experience.1

It will cost you.

$289 – Average annual value of each customer relationship lost to a competitor or abandoned.2

And, it doesn’t take much.

50% of consumers give a brand only one week to respond to a question before they stop doing business with them.3

So, bless you, Gina. You’ve reminded me what it is to get out of my own head and pre-conceived notions and engage with the person in front of me. And, how good lime jell-o is.

P.S. So here is my business idea – you can just take it and run with it. A Vino-Volo type wine bar, but instead of at airports do it at hospitals. It’s just screaming “opportunity”. You’re welcome.
1Source: RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report 2011

2Source: Genesys Report – The Cost of Poor Customer Service

3Source: RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report 2011

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