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rudeMilton Pedraza, CEO of Luxury Institute recently confirmed, “Luxury brands lose half of their top customers every year. The biggest reason why a consumer won’t come back is not the product—it’s a rude or inattentive salesperson” (The new face of luxury: breaking down the myths and stereotypes of the luxury shopper). On the surface this statement seems to contradict the finding of a recent study titled, Should the Devil Sell Prada? Retail Rejection Increases Aspiring Consumers’ Desire for the Brand (October 2014 Journal of Consumer Research). The study (co-authored by Dr. Darren Dahl, a marketing professor at the Sauder School of Business and Prof. Morgan Ward of the Cox School of Business) found customers who receive poor treatment from sales associates in a luxury retail environment are more likely to make a purchase.

Luxury brands lose half of their top customers every year. The biggest reason why a consumer won’t come back is not the product—it’s a rude or inattentive salesperson

But if we look at the JCR study more closely, we’ll see that the “willingness to purchase” shrinks significantly over time. Within two weeks after customers are snubbed, they ended up regretting the experience and wanted to return the item they purchased. People who are already brand loyal won’t be impressed by the snobbish attitude of sales associates. Long-term, the strategy will fail, Dahl says.

So I thought it time we looked at some common sense rules on how not to offend customers:

  • Smile –In a recent study conducted in the UK by Hewlett Packard it was found that a single smile produced the same level of brain stimulation as eating 2,000 chocolate bars! A genuine smile is always welcomed.
  • Listen more than you speak – There’s an old proverb “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we ought to listen twice as much as we speak.” Nowhere is this more true than on the sales floor. Ask open-ended questions to learn more about your customer’s needs. It’s about building rapport, not about showcasing your expertise.
  • Be personable – Maintain eye contact, make people feel comfortable, be mindful of verbal and physical cues. Make an effort to remember personal details customers may share about their jobs, family, important life events, etc. This is where your emotional intelligence skills come into play.
  • Be patient – The harried parent with noisy children in tow, the busy executive talking on her cellphone, the tourist who doesn’t speak English—all of these can test the patience of any sales professional. Thinking of ways to entertain the children so the parent can shop, offering to schedule the executive some time with a personal shopper, or having pre-printed cards with information in several languages can help minimize stressful situations. Two of the most valuable tools a salesperson has in order to best handle stressful situations are the ability to remain calm and the ability to improvise.
  • Be respectful – Remember the snooty sales associates who refused to wait on Julia Robert’s character, Vivian, in the movie Pretty Woman? They receive their comeuppance when Vivian returns with her numerous purchases to let them know they made a “big mistake.” I recall working at one jewelry store where sales associates complained every Valentine’s Day when young men would come in to buy silver charm bracelets for their girlfriends. They resented the time these youths took away from more “significant” purchases. Too bad they didn’t realize that in a few years these young men might return to purchase diamond engagement rings for their fiancées. Respect your customers no matter how young they are or how they are dressed.

There are costs to poor customer service: lost business, bad word of mouth, Twitter revenge! Click on the infographic below, created by Provide Support®, to see just what these costs are:

 What is the Cost of Poor Customer Service?What-Happens-After-Poor-Customer-Experience_2

So please try not to be rude and follow the Platinum Rule: “Treat other people as they would wish to be treated.”