Quit Your Wine-Ing! (And Start Paying Attention To Your Customers)

Last Thursday I was invited to a wine dinner with a number of local doctors and business executives. We shared great wine, enjoyed each other’s company, and learned a lot too.

Speaking of wine, a story last week highlights the importance of having clear policies for customer service, customer relations, and requirements for customer contact. Let me explain what happened.

So basically, as the story goes, a customer who stored over 65 cases of wine at a prominent NYC wine storage facility for over 15 years, had her wine dumped after a credit card mishap.

The court documents allege that the client's credit was in arrears in excess of $5000+. 

Meanwhile, the customer continued to receive automated statements her account was paid in full and in good standing.

Supposedly, the company made a typo somewhere causing them to try to charge the wrong card, and therefore finally decided to “dump” the customer’s 65 cases of collectible wine.

Let’s pause for a minute. The entire story seems ridiculous, many news outlets are loving it, and my initial response was to dig deeper.

It reminded me of the old “McDonald's was sued for giving people hot coffee!” outrage headlines, which of course turned out to be incredibly misleading.

However, in this case, the court documents are pretty convincing and the storage facility is saying the wine is gone. While news outlets are saying “Dumped”, the court documents are saying “Disposed of or sold”. Either way, though, the woman’s wine is gone.

I almost don’t believe either party here, but let’s assume someone is telling the truth. 


A) The customer did actually owe over $5000+ for years, and even though they attempted to contact the client, an automated system continued to send statements to the client letting them know the account was in “good” standing….


B) The company, or some disgruntled employee stole and elements of a) are true…


C) The company was manually trying to bill the incorrect card, the client was actually defaulting on their payments, and their systems continued to send statements to the client letting them know the account was in “good” standing.

I’m sure we could develop more scenarios, but in every scenario I’ve run through my head, the company is the perfect example of one I consider to be rather dismal, certainly not good, and likely never to be great.

This is the perfect story highlighting the need for having corporate policies, the need for people to understand them, and the need for companies to periodically ensure that the most important pieces of the business are being treated well.

Most importantly, it highlights the need to pick up the damned phone every once in a while and have a real discussion with your clients when things are going wrong. Or when things are going right.  

Only 2% of companies I’ve ever worked with have had a culture in place that encouraged people at every level of seniority to be picking up the phone and connecting with customers often enough.

So what about your company?

Are you walking around with two left feet? 

Are your customer-facing people doing one thing while your automated systems are doing another?

What efforts do you have in place to ensure your customer contact information is correct and up-to-date? 

This applies to B2B, B2C and just about every industry out there. 

How is it possible they couldn't get in contact with this client? 

What’s your policy for maintaining contact with the customer? Remember the 45-90 rule!

Finally, how often are you running checks and balances on systems?

Your Challenge For This Week:

Conduct a review of your customer contact policies or get the ball rolling to make this a priority.

Find out, with certain confidence, how up-to-date your client list, contact information, and database is.

If you haven’t done this in a while (or ever), make this a priority, because it’s too important to screw up.

I don’t know about you, but I need a drink!