There are several good reasons why Waterford Estate remains number one on TripAdvisor.co.za’s list of “things to do in Stellenbosch”. One of these, many reviewers say, is the friendly, knowledgeable staff and the exceptional service they provide.
What customers experience when they walk into a tasting room is often key to a wine brand’s success. Thanks to superior customer service in the form of helpful interactions with tasting-room staff, most of Waterford Estate’s visitors walk away feeling that they’ve had a memorable day in the Winelands and that they’ve truly engaged with the brand.
But exceptional customer experience isn’t achieved overnight; it must be built on solid brand values that are reinforced over time. And, if the owners and managers don’t practise what they preach, a wine estate might fail at achieving this important goal.
Waterford Estate, which is owned and managed by the Ord and Arnold families respectively, is built on good family values. As such, staff members are encouraged to grow into their roles, to intimately know the brand and its wines, and to truly become part of the Waterford Estate family. Over time, this translates into happy, well-integrated staff members who are able to provide a genuine, warm service.
For Caitlin Kat, one of the students who work in the tasting room, this authentic approach to service is what sets Waterford Estate apart from its competitors. “We’re never forced to fit into a mould,” she says. Instead, staff members are encouraged to relax and to just be themselves, while still providing a professional service.
As all the tasting-room managers also started off as students, they have a good understanding of how best to treat new staff members and how to help them to excel at their jobs. A key part of this process is to treat them with respect. “Just like our customers, I was also treated very well when I walked in here for the first time,” Caitlin says.
When chatting to the students, many of them mention how Waterford Estate has also contributed to their personal growth and health. For Ross Buchanan, who was diagnosed with two auto-immune disorders while studying a couple of years ago, working at the peaceful estate with its relaxed, family-orientated culture has become a lifeline. For him, working in a stressful, corporate environment simply isn’t an option.
“The fact that you can build up a relationship with customers is another important reason why I work here,” says Ross. “You greet the customers, introduce yourself, and have a conversation. The service is very personal and relaxed, which also means that the experience is really memorable. These customers are then more likely to engage with the brand in future.”
Rico Louw, another student, adds that welcoming a guest at Waterford Estate reminds him of inviting an old friend into his backyard to come and enjoy a glass of wine. “It’s all very intuitive here, and the estate’s strong family values are echoed in everything we do.”
And so, many of Waterford Estate’s visitors return to the wine estate for the wonderful experience it offers, and not just for the award-winning wines. Some spend a morning or afternoon in the magnificent courtyard, doing one tasting after the other in the company of a knowledgeable staff member, while others participate in a wine drive or walk through the vineyards.
Caitlin believes it’s the way a visit to Waterford Estate unfolds that makes it so special. “When you come up the driveway and around the corner, many visitors are surprised by the spectacular building. Then they’re greeted with a smile, and exceptional, authentic service follows. It becomes a big, beautiful experience with exceptional products. When these visitors leave, they’re once again greeted in the warm way in which they were welcomed.”
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