In a previous post I dissected the upcoming Journal of Consumer Research report that purportedly found customers who receive poor treatment from sales associates in a luxury retail environment are more likely to make a purchase. Many blogs turned this particular factoid into a headline. But if you dove deeper into the study, you saw that this off-putting approach had no staying power. It only worked on aspirational customers and not for customers who were already familiar with the brand. Even worse, the majority of aspirational customers who, in a vain attempt to be considered “part of the club,” succumbed to the snooty behavior of their luxury sales person, wound up returning their purchases within two weeks.
The foolishness of pursuing the snobby approach to customer service is borne out by another recent study: “The Q2 Survey of Affluence and Wealth,” published by Time Inc. and YouGovs. This study shows seven out of 10 affluent consumers are disappointed by in-store sales and service staff who don’t make positive personal connections during the shopping experience. Affluent consumers reported that they’d rather purchase items online in order to avoid the in-store staff. Being snooty may result in a bump in sales in the short run, but offering true luxury service – and investing in customer relationships – will prove to be the more lucrative long term plan.