By Doug Fabbioli
I wear many different hats these days, from farmer, winemaker, consultant and collaborator to marketer, executive, industry leader and regional ambassador. These hats are changed regularly throughout the day, but my best days are when I can wear two or three hats at the same time and achieve multiple goals at once. Often, the way I determine which hat to wear is by considering the customer.
One of the factors that has made our rural economy successful in achieving the growth plans over the past few years has been the ability to read and listen to the customer. Whether it is the produce buyer at Wegmans seeing how quickly the local tomatoes sell out, the winery owner that adds gravel to the parking lot prior to the winter or the pumpkin farmer that found the new variety of pumpkins that the customers didn’t even know they needed until seeing it, it is critical to anticipate the customer’s wants and needs well prior to their arrival. The pumpkin farmer thought about the customer when the seeds were chosen months before planting. The grocer worked hard earlier in the season to build a relationship with the farmer who grows the tomatoes. The winery customer does not think about the gravel in the parking lot, but they sure will be upset if no gravel is there and their car gets stuck in the mud.
The time, focus and energy put into the customer before he or she shows up is tremendous. One place that I have always learned from is Walt Disney World. Disney works hard to make each guest feel special. Sometimes things do not work out as planned but in general, there is always emphasis on the total customer experience, their needs during their stay and the ability to make them feel good throughout the visit. I am recognizing that for us it is important to welcome all, but also to have a bit of exclusivity along the way. We cannot make a wine for every palate, but we try to make a number of styles so that there are plenty of wines to choose from. We love to see the first time visitors, but want to recognize the long time club member who brings new friends each time they visit.
“If you build it, they will come!” We all remember that iconic quote from the movie Field Of Dreams. While vision, trust and drive are embedded in this statement, it is critical that businesses listen to their customers as well. Each business works to find the right product or experience for their customer, and the right thing is the steady process of listening and thinking about that customer. The other pieces will fall into place.