Case Study: my1voice Ferments Wine Distributors Virtual PBX

Channel Partners

July 31, 2009

9 Min Read
Case Study: my1voice Ferments Wine Distributors Virtual PBX

When ordinary people picture the winery business, their minds usually turn to pastoral fields of grape vines, dark cellars filled with well-worn aging barrels, and kindly vintners offering sips of their latest blends to interested tourists who just happen to be passing by. While those images are certainly a part of the industry, there is another side – one filled with hectic schedules, hastily arranged meetings, calls from demanding customers and the ever-present pressure to perform.

At the heart of this second group are the salespeople who regularly visit retailers to promote their brands. Despite all the progress that’s been made in communications technology, this is still primarily a face-to-face business. This fact results in a great deal of mobility among the sales force, which means they work remotely on a regular basis.

For those with a large support staff, being on the road is an inconvenience. Still, they have help staying in touch with all the customers they’re not visiting that day – people to forward calls, return calls that don’t require their personal touch, and alert them to any developing emergencies. For salespeople at boutique vineyards who have little (or no) support staff, however, it’s one of the most challenging aspects of their job. Particularly since customer expectations are that a smaller business will provide better service and responsiveness than a large-volume one simply because they are a small business.

There’s also the issue of how small is too small. While the boutique image often speaks to quality (versus the high-volume producers), taken too far it can lead customers to question whether the vintner has enough resources to fulfill its orders on a timely basis. Customers like the thought of small. They’re less enthralled with the thought of “unprofessional.” So it’s important to create an image, both in reality and in appearances, that is in line with what customers want and expect from their high-end wine suppliers.

The Company:

CVBG was created as a corporate entity in 1966 when two long-established French Bordeaux-makers – The Dourthe company (1840) and the Kressmann company (1871) – joined forces to produce high-quality wines. Today, the company is the fourth largest Bordeaux negotiant (purchaser of grapes from outside suppliers) in that region, and maintains a line of champagne from the Thenoit properties. Its Bordeaux wines are considered to be the premier varieties around the globe. CVBG maintains and directs multiple properties itself, and has an additional 70 petite chateaux relationships, giving it complete control over the viticultural practices. The company has sales offices that provide local service around the world. In North America, its products are sold primarily in fine wine shops and restaurants.

The Challenge:

CVBG has had a North American presence for four years. Recently, the parent organization has made some changes that will lead into a larger footprint in North America, that include regional offices throughout the country – one in Chicago serving the Midwest and central plains states and another in eastern Pennsylvania servicing the East Coast. Plans are to have five to 10 offices in the United States in the next few years.

This regional approach is in keeping with the company’s philosophy of personalized, local service. But it does present some issues, particularly in terms of identity. When the two U.S. offices opened, each had their own local phone numbers, creating an impression that is not in keeping with CVBG’s position in the wine-making world. It made it seem to North American customers as though the company was a very small, local producer rather than the well-respected, France-based global maker of premium Bordeauxes it actually is.

The other key issue with using local phone numbers in the North American offices was availability. Each office has one salesperson who spends the bulk of his/her time on the road. As a result, any calls that came into the office would have to wait until the salesperson checked voice mail. Depending on the day and how many meetings the salesperson had, that could mean a long delay in returning the call. If several voice mails had been received, it could take a while to get through the mundane ones to find one that required immediate action.

“Ours is a relationship business,” said Mark-Thomas Gavigan, regional sales director, CVBG USA. “When customers call during business hours, it is important that we are able to respond immediately.”

With the company’s plans to expand the business by adding more people, it was also important that it establish a single phone number that could be used with business cards, collateral materials, point of sale materials, etc. rather than having to provide individual numbers for each person. Yet the distributed nature of the business made that a challenge.

Traditional business phone equipment (PBX systems) that provides a single phone number with extensions requires everyone who will be on the system to work in the same building. In addition, it does not allow office phones to be forwarded to mobile or other phones – a huge problem for salespeople who spend the bulk of their time out of the office.

Gavigan wanted to find a phone system that would both answer the company’s immediate needs and fit in with its plans to expand for the future. He also wanted one that would be managed externally since CVBG in the United States has no IT department or budget for IT support. That meant finding a Web-based service that had a feature-rich product at a reasonable price.

Gavigan considered several options, including installing a message board that would forward an e-mail message to a mobile device when customers called. But he realized it still wouldn’t provide customers with immediate access, and that it would be cost-prohibitive since someone would have to be hired simply to forward messages. That’s when serendipity struck.

The Solution:

As he was researching options, Gavigan received a message about a new service called my1voice that was being introduced by the same company that provided him with the MyFax Internet fax service he used. my1voice promised to give his distributed company the same type of phone features that previously had only been available to large enterprises, and at a fraction of the cost. Since his experience with the service itself and the company’s customer support group had been so outstanding he decided to look into it.

“I could see immediately that my1voice would answer all our needs, and then some,” Gavigan said. “Not only did we receive a single number for customers and suppliers to call, it’s a toll-free number so it’s as though they’re calling a headquarters building like we have in France, This works with our global brand, which is growing in the US.”

The greeting message the system plays is also part of the whole image-enhancement aspect of my1voice. Rather than recording the message himself, Gavigan took advantage of my1voice’s free professional greeting offering to create a welcome message – with a special twist.

“Historically, the British have always been an important part of the wine business, especially with top-end producers,” he said. “We asked my1voice to find us a professional announcer with a British accent to do the greeting, and they did. It really sets the tone for the type of company we are.”

One benefit Gavigan appreciates particularly is the flexibility of the my1voice online call management system. He has used the scheduling feature to create a standard set of business hours. When he’s not in a customer meeting, he keeps his phone available from 8 a.m. ET to 6 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday. Outside of those hours, the phone goes directly to voice mail, helping him maintain separation between his business and personal life. He also goes online to make certain on-the-fly adjustments.

“If I’m out of the office, I will usually forward the my1voice extension to my mobile phone so customers can reach me immediately, rather than having it ring endlessly as it did before” he said. “But if I’m going into a customer meeting, I’ll change it to go directly to voice mail. When that happens, I receive an e-mail alert on my mobile phone so I know there’s a voice message waiting. I can then check the message over the Internet rather than having to call back into the system. I can even see the message in text form so I know whether it requires immediate action. It’s all very elegant.”

The my1voice Caller ID Routing feature extends that concept even further. It allows rules to be established that route certain calls directly to an extension, mailbox or informational message, all based on all or part of the incoming caller ID. It can even reject unwanted calls completely. With that in place, CVBG can handle calls more efficiently. For example, new customers can be routed to the correct salesperson based on the area code from which they’re calling, while calls from top customers can be routed directly to the salesperson’s phone rather than going to the auto-attendant greeting first.

Having a single corporate phone number positions the company well for future growth. Wines are typically displayed on retail store floors stacked in cases with case cards, shelf talkers, or other point of sale materials. With the my1voice number in place, CVBG is able to print the phone number on those materials, making it easier for customers to know where to call to obtain more wine. As the company grows, this single number may lead to a customer service line rather than sales.

“We’re not sure how we will structure it yet,” said Gavigan. “But the beauty is we don’t have to make that decision now. If we decide to change the operational part in the future, it will be an easy move on my1voice. Customers won’t need to be concerned with new or additional phone numbers and CVBG isn’t locked into an inflexible phone system.”

The Results:

The biggest question mark in the process was whether customers would start moving away from the old local numbers and using the my1voice toll-free number in its place. That question was answered quickly.

“Once the service was turned on, I was waiting for a customer to call us on the my1voice line,” Gavigan said. “It happened pretty quickly. I was delighted to receive the first call on it.”

Since that time, Gavigan has found that my1voice has done everything he’d hoped it would do. The lines of communications to customers have improved significantly, and they’re feeling they’re getting world-class service to go along with their world-class Bordeauxes.

“my1voice is a wonderful product,” he said. “I appreciate the way it works. It is compatible with our needs as a company we look forward to growing with my1voice.”

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