Wine.com drives loyalty with personalized service + live chat sommeliers
Wine.com is the United States’ largest online retailer for receiving, buying, and learning about wine. The company leverages Zendesk to drive loyalty with personalized service to its customers through an omnichannel approach—including live chat with trained sommeliers. Despite 23 percent annual growth in support tickets, Wine.com agents drove an impressive 55 percent decrease in first reply time along with a 91 percent CSAT score, which means Wine.com is able to drive loyalty with personalized experience—efficiently and at scale.
“Our goal is to ensure that agents can access as much customer data as possible. We love Zendesk because their API allows us to explore ways to get customer data in front of agents in ways that create a smoother, more personalized experience.”
“One of the most important Zendesk capabilities is omnichannel integration. We can track customer tickets across platforms and consolidate chats and emails to prevent duplicate tickets and responses.”
San Francisco, California
Monthly ticket volume
Decrease in full resolution time
Decrease in first reply time
Increase in ticket volume
Finding the perfect bottle of wine for any palate or occasion has never been easier or more enjoyable. Designed for wine lovers and novice shoppers alike, Wine.com has the world’s largest selection of wines paired with expert guidance.
The online platform has revolutionized the way people discover wine, by providing professional ratings, extensive wine and winery content, a 5-star mobile app, and live chat wine experts to guide customers on a personal wine journey.
At Wine.com, more than 130 support agents use Zendesk. The agents are divided into two teams: customer care agents and recommendation agents who are credentialed wine experts with at least a decade of industry experience. Together, the support agents process more than 52,000 tickets per month covering a range of topics: order and delivery status; cancellations and modifications; inventory mismatches; carrier issues; promo code usage; and seasonal issues.
In April 2020, Wine.com started hosting virtual wine tasting events to create a new form of ‘edutainment’ as people shifted their shopping and social activities online. The director of brand marketing, Addie Wallace, recognized the importance of bringing a human element into the digital space, by connecting customers with wine producers. And she hasn’t stopped thinking about it since.
“We’re always looking for ways to elevate and animate the customer experience, while making it less transactional. Our team has the knowledge and the tools to create meaningful, ongoing conversations with customers,” says Wallace.
Live support channels create real connections
The company’s primary support channel is Zendesk chat, staffed with live agents for both customer service and wine recommendations. Visitors to the Wine.com homepage are greeted by a wine expert via live chat. These non-commissioned wine connoisseurs are dedicated to helping customers select the best wine for their personal taste and needs, a truly specialized service given the 15,000+ wines available.
Wallace says, “The wine expert is there to share their knowledge and passion for wine, and they delight in having a conversation with a customer who wants to learn. Likewise, the interaction is less intimidating for the customer knowing that a commission is not involved in the transaction.”
Senior and lead wine recommendation agents are also trained to handle any type of customer support request, which makes them a “super agent” in Wallace’s eyes. “It’s powerful to have agents who can address virtually any problem, question, or comment that comes up, and be a great representative of the brand and the company,” she adds.
The customer care team is focused on using Zendesk, especially the chat interface, to improve customizations for agent interactions.
Exceptional service with a personal touch
In 2022, the big initiative at Wine.com is even greater personalization. Wallace says, “The goal is to make sure that each person receives a tailored customer experience, from support conversations to exploration of the website.” Every wine consumer has individual tastes and is at a different point in their wine journey, so the team avoids speaking to all wine consumers as if they’re a monolith.
She adds, “We believe that a customer-centric approach is key to providing a delightful experience. We exist to help the wine lover discover and enjoy wine. All we should be doing is thinking about identifying customer needs and finding ways to serve them.”
In fact, the company created the role of recommendation agents for the sole purpose of supporting that mission.
Going all in with omnichannel integration
The primary channels for Wine.com customer service are chat, email, and phone, with additional social channels provided through Zendesk integrations with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
“One of the most important Zendesk capabilities for great customer experience is omnichannel integration. We can track customer tickets across platforms and consolidate chats and emails to prevent duplicate tickets and responses,” says Wallace.
Having integrated channels helps agents handle some of the most common service challenges, from delivery issues surrounding required signatures to inventory issues that vary by state. Agents can also use the Zendesk integration with the company’s CRM system to tag chats for future tracking.
Wallace notes, “Our goal is to ensure that agents can access as much customer data as possible. We love Zendesk because it provides a data ecosystem, giving agents visibility into all the customer touch points.”
Agents can log in and see the customer profiles, including past purchases or status as a stewardship customer (a free-shipping membership program). “Zendesk gives the full context so an agent can jump in and pick up the conversation in a personalized way that isn’t possible with an anonymous bot,” says Wallace.
Delighting customers with fast, personal experience
Wine.com is a service-first organization, so CSAT takes precedence over efficiency at the agent level. The goal is to find ways to make the agent’s job easier so they can provide better support and ultimately increase customer satisfaction.
The team is obviously doing its job well with a 91 percent CSAT score, up three percentage points from the previous year. But Wine.com is also making strides with efficiency gains based on analytics delivered through the Zendesk platform. The team sees efficiency as a way to make a better customer experience.
Despite a 23 percent increase in year-to-year ticket volume, the Wine.com customer service team has seen a whopping 55 percent decrease in first reply time and an 18 percent decrease in full resolution time. Even though the team has more tickets year over year that could have become a backlog, they are able to resolve more issues in a single reply and resolve the rest of the issues faster.
To keep a pulse on how customers view their experience at Wine.com, Wallace says she spends a lot of time speaking with customers and reading through Zendesk chats, recommendations, and NPS surveys. “What they’re looking for is that sense of personalization. So, a big effort on our part is pulling that forward through all of our efforts, from customer service, to product, to marketing.”
CX roadmap for delivering the perfect wine
Looking ahead, Wallace hopes to integrate Zendesk data and analytics with additional data points at the company to create an even more robust customer view, complete with wine tastes and preferences which agents can refer to when interacting with customers.
Another high priority on the CX roadmap is implementing self-service tools for customers, since the help center is currently only used internally. Wallace explains, “We are investigating self-service workflows that get customers the best answer as quickly as possible. Sometimes automation is the best way to resolve simple customer questions, like redirecting them to an account page or order status.” Efficient, automated self-service can play a big part in creating great customer experiences, as long as it is paired with personalized recommendations from the wine experts at Wine.com.