(from the “real world”)
A very frustrated letter to a principal at one of the larger vendors in the NY wine and liquor business detailing my frustration at the lack of communication and customer service at a very basic level. I honestly feel that small customer service issues can be the key to making lifelong loyal and happy customers. Sometimes it’s hard to see what goes on from the top. I will detail his response when we speak. He was quick to respond and I’m anxious to discuss this with him.
This is Michael Eigen from Premier Cru Wine Merchants on Madison. We met at last weeks Far Niente lunch with Beth Nickel. At the time my fellow merchant Sam Choi was expressing some issues he was having/had had with Empire and I jumped in to say that overall I felt that was not my experience. I was premature. Since that lunch I have had two incidents that stem from poor customer service that have caused me (and as of this writing in one case are causing me) great aggravation and professional harm for very avoidable reasons.
Incident one involved a special order delivery that never arrived. This occurred that same Wednesday when I returned from lunch and found the order still missing. After repeated calls, at about 4:30 it was determined that the truck had been turned around due to a problem but neither I nor my salesperson had been informed. As a result I had a screaming client and had to scramble to find something to give him with only about ten minutes to spare. Had the communication been even minimal I would have had ample time to make alternative plans.
Incident two is ongoing and involves another special order two weeks in the making. I am awaiting delivery of this order after Empire was unable to deliver Monday because of a warehouse issue (it was in the wrong place?). My request for an early morning delivery to satisfy my client’s delivery needs apparently fell on deaf ears as it is now 4:30 and nothing. I am in danger of losing a very hard to come by corporate client. I don’t feel that I was asking too much to request an early morning delivery yet my salesman indicated that it would very unlikely to happen. Why is that? This is an extraordinary circumstance that resulted from an issue on your end. By making the effort to accommodate the client Empire could have left me feeling good about your efforts to “make good”. Now I am so angry I feel I want to pull back from Empire.
Here’s why this is more important than it sounds: While I may not ever be your biggest client, the small stores as you know serve a valuable purpose in the food chain. I am always willing to be available for work withs and an amenable host to winemakers. In addition I make up for small volume by readily accepting placements of wine from my various reps within Empire. I understand that this can be as important as volume and have always tried to help them achieve their goals (thereby helping Empire as well). In doing this I have always hoped that there would be a modest quid pro quo but after these two incidents I see that this is not the case. I am sorry for my excellent reps who will feel my cold shoulder for a while, while I calm down.
Interestingly, the reason I chose this bourbon was because of the excellent attention I have received from my rep Murray Ginsberg. Despite my small volume he has continually made his presence known and done an excellent job of growing my liquor selection. There is irony there.
I write this to you not in anger but in frustration because it is a David vs Goliath situation but there are many Davids in this market that feel that customer service is key. How a company handles problems is often how they’re judged and this problem was not handled well at all. I merely wanted to bring this to your attention as we had just met and similar issues had come up (granted in an inappropriate venue). I write about these issues as part of my sideline as a small business coach so am keenly aware of both sides and try to stay objective. In this case I feel that more could have been done.
Lastly, the lunch I met you at last week was a good example of what I’m talking about. I do not like to go out to lunch as I run a small store but was helping out Max because two other people had cancelled. This is how I feel we help each other. Does Empire feel the same? Thanks for listening.
owner/operator Premier Cru Wine Merchants
Sent from my iPad