Wine Retailer Toasts Superior Customer Support

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2016-03-18 Email Print this article Print
Customer Support

Total Wine & More, with an online site and 130 stores, adopted a sophisticated approach to customer and help-desk support, and ratings have shot up dramatically.

One of the biggest challenges retailers face is managing support tasks, including customers. Unhappy and dissatisfied buyers translate into lost business and diminished revenues.

At Total Wine & More, which operates more than 130 superstores in 18 states and an online site, the journey to a better customer and help-desk support wasn't easy. "We had an antiquated and inadequate ticketing system in place," recalls Candice Peacock, the IT service desk manager. "People could enter tickets but, at that point, things broke down. They would often wind up misdirected, lost or unsearchable."

Overall, the company sells more than 8,000 wines, 3,000 spirits and 2,500 beers. In addition, it works with fulfillment partners and offers home delivery in certain areas.

"Every week, we receive somewhere between 500 and 700 tickets for a variety of issues and problems," Peacock explains. These can range from password resets to returned items that require a refund for a store or customer.

"We sometime had irate customers because it was taking weeks to receive a refund or fix a problem," she adds. "In some cases, the ticket was sitting in the wrong team queue, or someone simply lost track of it." With no visibility, "Our customer service ratings were low."

Finding a Better Way to Deliver Customer Support

The company recognized that its system was so broken that it could not be fixed. So, three years ago, it began to look for a better way to manage tickets and deliver customer support.

After examining several vendors, the company ultimately selected IT service management firm HEAT Software to provide a more structured approach that would work in the cloud. The system's features include automated ticket routing and tracking; surveys and feedback tools; robust reporting capabilities; and a dashboard for overseeing help-desk tasks and activities. The company also uses the system to aid in loss prevention and safety reporting.

"We now have far greater visibility into tickets and what is happening in our business community—including vendors, contractors, stores and corporate offices," Peacock reports. "We are able to view the status of tickets, identify how long they have been open and view other important details."

This has helped Total Wine & More better support stores and provide tools that allow teams from across the organization to access the information they need at the time they need it. As a result, tickets that used to take weeks and sometimes months to resolve are now addressed immediately. What's more, "If there is a problem, we can easily escalate and route the ticket to the right person," Peacock notes.

Transitioning to the new environment did introduce some challenges, including migrating existing tickets into the new system and altering workflows to accommodate the software. However, Peacock says that the move has paid huge dividends.

The company is performing help-desk tasks far more efficiently, and customer ratings have shot up dramatically. In addition, management now has the data and tools to spot new types of problems or recurring glitches or breakdowns.

"We are able to operate in a far more proactive way and address issues before they become widespread problems," Peacock reports.

Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).

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