Choice Words: How to Speak to the Luxury Customer

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

It’s been said that women fall in love with their ears and men with their eyes. I studied music and have an ear for languages. So perhaps this is why I’m particularly attuned to the words I hear, especially when those words are delivered as part of a luxury customer experience.

 Everything about the luxury  experience—the colors, aromas, sounds, and language—must work together to create the complete luxury aesthetic. If any element does not align, the messaging becomes muddled. Luxury brands spend large sums to ensure the boutique lighting is just right, the appointments are lavish, and the marketing images tell the brand story; yet they sometimes fail to make sure their sales associates’ language consistently conveys the tone of the brand.

To understand the powerful relationship between vocabulary and brand, I perused several well-known luxury websites and selected some choice words. Read through the following lists and listen to how each word resonates with the brand message:

CHANEL: couturier, glorifies, exhilarating, precious, extravagant, richness, exalts, accentuates, mysterious, magical, eternal. spell, elegance, trumps, illuminates,  decoration, classic, elegance, shines, triumphs, signature, surprising, unexpected, fresh, impeccable, flawless, conjures, whimsical, fearless, sexy and timeless

PATEK PHILLIPE: unfaltering, rare, expertise, elegant, savoir faire, rich, timeless, stylish, pride, enduring, unparalleled, prestige, connoisseurs, perfection, undisputed supremacy, excellence, trustworthiness, ingenuity, passion, noble, pioneering, finest, investment, reputation, sentimental, treasured,  discretion, aristocratic, tradition

ROLLS-ROYCE: best in the world, illustrious, powerful, pedigreed, commanding, unforgettable, authority, striking, unrivalled, supple, graceful, ultimate, palatial, exquisite, bespoke, precise, refinement, embrace, sleek, grand, sublime

If I had separated the brand names from their respective vocabularies, would you have been able to guess which brand name corresponded to which wording?

Language can be evocative and seductive. The perfect word can conjure an image, arouse an emotion or spark a memory.  By taking the time to polish and refine your luxury vocabulary, you can complete the luxury brand experience for your customer. Click on the Luxury Lexicon link here or on the menu above to access a list of words to get you started. Be sure to read your brand’s marketing materials, advertisements, and social media posts. Capture those words you feel exemplify your brand and incorporate them into your customer dialogues. Open your ears to the words you, yourself, hear as a customer and adopt those that please you. I invite you to share your own favorite luxury words in the Comments section below. Selected entries will be added to the Luxury Lexicon.

Those Little Things Really Do Count

tea-cup

When you travel as much as I do (over 100,000 miles last year) AND you write a blog about customer service (four years running), you can start to overlook the little things, feel jaded, and think you’ve written just about everything you can about luxury customer service. Then the littlest thing can happen and you’re reminded again how important good customer service is and to appreciate those who go out of their way to provide it.

We’ve all read the stories of luxury hotel staff who have flown across the country to deliver a laptop inadvertently left behind, or the department store that allowed a customer to “return” four tires even though they don’t sell tires. All grand gestures indeed and worthy of acknowledgement. But this post is dedicated to those who serve in the smallest of ways. Those  who take the time to notice what’s going on and then make that small, extra effort to make your day.

Continue reading “Those Little Things Really Do Count”

LuxeCX Roundtable: Transforming the Customer Experience Means Transforming the Sales and Support Teams

luxecx-victoria-1.jpg

I recently had the honor of presenting at the LuxeCX Customer Experience in Luxury Roundtable in New York City hosted by Luxury Daily. The conference featured eighteen speakers focused on the critical role of customer experience in the luxury sector. My own presentation centered on the need to train sales and support teams whenever you are in the process of transforming your customer experience.

Brand and marketing teams often drive new customer experience transformation initiatives. But, in my years of leading the training function of some well-recognized luxury brands, I found they frequently forget to include the front-line customer ambassadors: sales and customer service teams. The sales and customer service associates are the “bookends” of the customer journey. Sales associates are usually the first point of contact your customer has with the brand and customer service associates support the end stage of the customer experience. More often than not, I had to chase down the directors of the marketing, product and brand teams to find out what new customer initiatives were in play.  My goal was to ensure that the transformed customer experience cycle included our customer-facing teams.

Continue reading “LuxeCX Roundtable: Transforming the Customer Experience Means Transforming the Sales and Support Teams”

Are You a Luxury Customer?

MirrorOne of the most difficult challenges in training luxury sales associates, is that they feel disconnected to the customer. They don’t live the “high class” lifestyle they believe their customers revel in. They could never imagine themselves paying so much money for a “frivolous” item. They may even decide a certain customer would never be interested in a high-end brand based simply on how that customer is dressed or what car he or she is driving.

Many of us don’t see ourselves as a luxury customer. Indeed, in a rather humorous piece for the New York Times called “So You’ve Wandered Into a Too Expensive Store,” the comedy writer, Monica Heisey explains the sense of panic that can ensue when you walk into an upscale store:

The air smelled too good; there were too few items on the shelves. By the time you’d touched the first wafer-thin turtleneck, you knew: This is a too-expensive shop.

Heisey then shares some tips on how deal with this embarrassing situation, including asking the salesperson to find another size as a diversionary tactic so she can make a quick exit.

Continue reading “Are You a Luxury Customer?”

Luxury isn’t snobby, it’s inviting.

I’m currently reading Excellence Wins: A No-Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise by Horst Schulze (co-founder of The Ritz-Carlton Company). So many wonderful ideas and words of wisdom from someone who laid the foundation for service par excellence!

This quote from the book sums up my approach to luxury “Elegance without warmth is arrogance.” Luxury should never be snobby; it should always be inviting.

Below is a link to a previous post about a study that showed while a snobby approach to luxury selling might result in increased sales, the increase is temporary. Ultimately, customers reject this strategy and leave the brand.

The Devil Sells Prada… and burns the customer!

 

 

 

Yours, Mine and Ours: Handling Mistakes

ImpossibleC’est impossible! That’s what our hostess exclaimed when my husband and I showed up for breakfast at the hotel we’d booked in Strasbourg, France. She didn’t mean it was impossible to have breakfast, she meant it was impossible for my husband to be there. Yet, there he was – alive and well – and hungry.

(Let me back up a bit. When we had checked into the hotel the day before, we discovered there had been a mix-up in our reservation. Though we booked a double-room for two, the hotel showed only a single room was reserved. The error was quickly resolved and we were told what time breakfast (which was included with the room) would be served.

Now back to breakfast. It was immediately apparent there had been no communication between the front desk and the restaurant regarding how many people from room 505 would be showing up for breakfast that morning. Luckily, it took only a short explanation in some broken French to clarify the misunderstanding, and my husband and I were soon enjoying fresh croissants and brioches.

Yet I kept thinking back to our hostess’ reaction, which had implied that we’d done something wrong. It reminded me of similar customer service situations I’d encountered that had been handled less than elegantly. Certainly, part of her reaction may have been cultural (service in European countries can differ from what we’re used to in the U.S.) Still, it prompted me to share some thoughts on how to handle customer misunderstandings—regardless of whether the customer is in the right or not.

Apologize and acknowledge

It may the customer’s fault—or not. You don’t know yet, so avoid jumping to conclusions. Even if the customer is at fault, perhaps there is something you can do to avoid other customers making the same mistake.  Could you provide clearer directions or put a process in place that will catch the mistake before it becomes a problem? Right now it doesn’t matter who’s at fault. A simple “I’m sorry. Let me see what we can do to resolve this” should work in most cases. (And really, aren’t you sorry this happened?)

Be polite and listen

Your customer is upset—he or she is being inconvenienced or is not receiving an expected service. (You may be inconvenienced as well, but part of your job in customer service is handling problems). Customers may become emotional; they may even become loud. It’s up to you to remain calm and listen. Of course, no one should ever put up with verbal abuse, but I’ve found that maintaining a calm, polite demeanor can prevent most situations from becoming overheated.

Focus on the solution, not the problem

There’s a parable I used to share when I taught a class on problem-solving. It applies here as well and it goes like this: A young woman and her two companions are hiking in the woods. A snake bites the young woman. Rather, than helping the young woman, the two companions spend precious time hunting down the snake. Needless to say, things don’t work out too well for the young woman. What’s the lesson here?  Don’t take time trying to find and fix the cause of the problem while the customer is standing front of you. Instead, focus on what you can do to resolve the situation. You’ll have plenty of time later to track down that snake!

Follow up

Once you have the facts, explain to the customer what happened, offer a solution, and determine whether they are satisfied.

Following are two examples:

“We’re sorry you encountered a problem at breakfast. We sat you immediately so as not to inconvenience you while we researched what happened. After talking with the staff, we realized the front desk had not informed the restaurant of the correct number in your party. We will work with both teams to ensure better communication in the future. We hope you enjoyed your breakfast and we value the opportunity to serve you further during your stay.”

“We’re sorry you encountered a problem at breakfast. We sat you immediately so as not to inconvenience you while we researched what happened. We see that while you desired to book a double-room, you indicated only a single room on your reservation. We will look into how we can make this clearer for customers booking online in the future. I you wish, we will change the reservation to accommodate your additional guest at the appropriate rate.”

It’s not impossible for a mistake to happen. In fact, you can be sure you will encounter mistakes from time to time. But by keeping these points in mind, you can avoid the mistake of not handling them well.

 

 

Don’t spread the bad mood flu

flu-season-wear-mask

This year’s flu season is one of the worst. My daily news feeds are replete with tips on how to avoid catching the flu and what to do should you get it.

But there’s another type of malady that seems to be common this time of year – the bad mood flu. It can be difficult to keep up a cheery disposition during the first few months of the year– the holidays are over, the weather is cold, and folks generally seem to be tired of winter. When your job is to deliver luxury service, it can be hard enough to keep your own mood cheery, let alone worry about someone else’s. Continue reading “Don’t spread the bad mood flu”

Own the Moment

Bulb

Nobody owns the customer, but someone can always own the moment.

This awesome quote comes from Scott Hudgins, Senior VP of Global Customer Managed Relationships at the Walt Disney Company.  I recently heard it repeated at a national sales conference for BSH Home Appliances Corporation, where I’m a senior learning partner for the Gaggenau luxury brand of appliances. Continue reading “Own the Moment”

The Other Luxury Customer

working rich 1

Not all luxury customers are immediately recognizable. They may not be pulling up to your store in a Bentley or be sporting the latest couture. In fact, despite having assets in the millions of dollars, some high-net worth consumers consider themselves middle-class. Rachel Sherman, a reporter for the New York Times, recently interviewed a number of wealthy individuals who “never talked about themselves as ‘rich’ or ‘upper class,’ often preferring terms like ‘comfortable’ or ‘fortunate.’ Some even identified as ‘middle class’ or ‘in the middle.’ ” Continue reading “The Other Luxury Customer”