He was there to discuss how the brand has taken a different approach to the wine industry in order to focus on great customer experiences, a move he believes is the main reason for the company’s success. 

If you want happy customers and loyalty, there are only two things that matter: product and service. And for that you need happy suppliers and happy staff.

Staff loyalty is the key theme behind Naked Wine’s approach to doing business, and the brand has a seven-point strategy to achieving it. 

James Bagley festival of marketing

1. Focus on experiences

According to James, if you focus on results alone you’ll never have happy employees, which will mean you don’t have happy customers. 

You need to focus on the experiences of your staff, because those experiences will drive their beliefs, and those beliefs will drive their actions. And that’s ultimately where your company culture comes from.

2. Aim for five stars 

We used to focus on achieving either four or five star customer experience ratings, but now we only focus on five.

Why? Because Naked Wines found that customers who consistently give five star ratings generally end up being better and more loyal customers.

3. Lead by example 

Once a month senior management at Naked Wines gets on the phones and does a shift with the ‘Customer Happiness’ department, which is the name it gives to its customer service team. 

This gets us talking directly to our customers, but it also shows our staff how important their jobs are.

4. Treat your staff like gold dust 

Bagley says it’s important to treat your staff the same way you’d like to be treated. 

If you treat your staff well they’ll start feeling good about it and then they’ll treat their customers in the same way. It’s a virtuous circle.

He talks about a time they had an ice cream van come to the office for the afternoon and staff could use it free of charge.

Small gestures go a long way, even if they don’t cost a lot.

5. Make a real difference

Bagley referred to some of the work Naked Wines does that goes beyond just selling wine. He talked about Carmen Stevens, one of the brand’s winemakers and the first black woman to graduate from winemaking school in South Africa. 

During a tasting tour Bagley and his team discovered that Stevens ran a soup kitchen back home, and that it was the only source of food for many of the schoolchildren around there. 

So Naked Wines got its angels – the name it gives its wine investors – involved and managed to raise enough money to feed 3,000 of the children for a year. 

“This wasn’t just about selling wine,” Bagley says. “It was about responding to the plight of one of our winemakers and doing what we could to help. That kind of thing creates a virtuous circle between us, our suppliers, and our customers.”

6. Empower people

Giving staff the ability to make a difference to the company regardless of their position, Bagley says, is important for building loyalty. 

Naked Wines runs a Dragons Den-style competition internally where staff put forward ideas for the business and the best three are nominated and voted for by the rest of the company, with the winning idea being implemented. 

One example of this was the ‘text for wine’ feature that Naked Wines announced earlier this year. 

Naked wines text for wine

7. Empower people more

Reiterating the importance of empowering your staff, Bagley refers to a story of when a customer complained about a botched delivery. 

A member of the customer service team asked what he could do to make it right, and the customer jokingly said “send me a lorry-load of wine.”

Unperturbed by the absurdity of the request, the customer service team member created a scaled-down ‘lorry’ out of a cardboard box and sent the customer 18 bottles of wine instead. 

That customer then took to Twitter to exclaim that the customer service member had “restored his faith in humanity.”

Perhaps a slight overreaction there, but as Bagley puts it: “£50 to turn around the opinion of a customer can’t be a bad thing.”

And it was possible because the staff member was free to use his own creativity and ideas to solve a problem.

And it works…

This isn’t just self-serving PR fluff, Bagley assures us. The strategy has actually brought some pretty significant business results. 

In six years Naked Wines has acquired 750,000 new customers, invested £80m into 117 winemakers across multiple countries and now ships around 25,000 bottles of wine every day. 

Not only that but it grew sales by 42% between 2013/2014 and won awards such as Best Retail Customer Experience at the Retail Awards and a place in the 100 Best Small Companies to Work For. 

I’m not trying to big up Naked Wines here because I have no affiliation to them and I’m not even a customer, but the point I’m making is there’s clearly value in treating your staff well and earning their loyalty. 

Bagley believes happy staff means happy customers, and that, he says, is ultimately what all brands should be aiming for. 

The most important thing is to have a great customer experience that focuses on customer happiness. That needs to be at the heart of your business model.