"Direct Wines is the largest operator of wine clubs in the world. Address management is critical to the company. address capture is an integral part of the Direct Wines application. From the caller's point of view, there is no longer any need to give the full postal address, which makes the call quicker."
Direct Wines is the largest operator of wine clubs in the world. Since being launched in 1969, the company has grown to sales of £78 million in 1998, and is behind well-known wine club brands like The Sunday Times Wine Club and Bordeaux Direct, as well as programmes for British Airways, Barclaycard, Diners Club and NatWest.
"We have a customer database approaching 800,000 and a target of 200,000 new customers per year," says Bryan Grieve, systems development manager. With the move to new premises and the upgrading of its call centre, however, the company has decided to migrate to a new generation of software. The application chosen to run its call centre and order processing is a customer management solution from Graham Technology (GT-X).
Address management is critical to the company. The customer's address is matched to a delivery address which can be recognised by their couriers' own systems. On the despatch document a barcode tells the courier where the cases need to be sent. Barcodes are optically read at the distribution hub, which automatically assigns each order to the right destination centre. Accurate delivery depends on correct addressing.
Address capture is an integral part of the Direct Wines application. The first question which callers are asked is their customer number, if they already belong to a wine club, or their postcode, if they are a new customer. The operator then enters the postcode supplied and the full address is automatically returned.
"We have always had a need for being able to find addresses and postcodes. The reason is speed and accuracy," says Tina Rickett, Call Centre Manager at Direct Wines. "It may take some time for an operator to enter the full address manually. That can introduce errors which mean the customer never gets a delivery." She notes that using address capture is an integral part of the call centre software speeds up order taking and improves accuracy. "From the operator's point of view, they do not notice anything different. They are unaware that they are shifting from one application to another," says Rickett. From the caller's point of view, there is no longer any need to give the full postal address, which makes the call quicker. The company is so confident about the low errror rate produced by the new system that it hopes to be able to significantly reduce the batch cleaning of its customer data.
Accurate data is also important for the extensive direct mail activity carried out to support the wine clubs. Direct Wines generates 14 different campaigns through the year, producing around 3.5 million items of direct mail in total. The customer database is a prime corporate asset, being used across the business, from stock managers and the finance department, to marketing and customer services. The link between customer data and the courier companies' records is also vital. One service Direct Wines offers is order tracking, telling a customer where a case of wine is if it has not yet arrived. That means records have to match accurately, not least because many customers send wine as a gift to friends and relatives.
Direct Wines is a prime example of how a successful mail order business can thrive based on a good idea, combined with customer service, efficiency and accuracy. Supporting its expansion has been the right quality of software and address management applications. Grieve says: "We have a policy of going for the best in class. Experian Data Quality and GT-X are that."