When customers have a higher expectation of service, as in the luxury sector, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases. I may not expect a hand-written thank-you note after purchasing a fashion ring at Macy’s, but I’d be surprised not to receive one if I bought a yellow-diamond pendant at Tiffany & Co. Because the service expectations of the luxury customer are so high, complaints need to be handled with extra care.
The goal, of course, is to prevent customer complaints altogether by listening attentively to the customer and ensuring seamless service. But things can and do go wrong, even in a luxury environment. When they do, it’s important to remember to act with grace. The dictionary defines ‘grace’ as a polite or pleasant way of behaving. It’s important to note as well, that the word ‘grace’ comes from the Latin gratia—to give thanks. Many people say grace before a meal in order to express gratitude. In the same way, a complaint can be seen as a gift. It presents an opportunity to exceed customer expectations and create loyalty. When we handle the complaint with grace, we are thankful for this gift.
“Only 19 percent of consumers believe sales associates have relevant information,” says Adam Silverman, principal analyst at Forrester Research, San Francisco. “That’s very shocking and that’s clearly an indicator that the sales associate role needs to change.”
One way in which you can change that role is to perfect the art of telling luxury’s story. A good story engages and excites the listener. Stories create emotions and those emotions, in turn, drive desire. We buy luxury items not because we need them, but because we desire them.
Platinum is more expensive than gold because it is rarer. Similarly, a platinum level of service is more precious than the “gold standard” of service offered by most sales professionals. The Golden Rule states: “Treat other people as we would wish to be treated ourselves.” It is the rare sales professional, however, who knows and lives by the Platinum Rule: “Treat other people as they would wish to be treated.” The difference comes down to a small, but meaningful, change in perspective.
Let me start by apologizing to anyone who is expecting a definitive list of principles that define luxury. This post may leave you with more questions than answers. I ended the year 2014 with a few posts devoted to the very question of what luxury is. It seems I’m still on the same track now that the new year has arrived.
I just finished reading a recent LinkedIn post by Alan Crean, a self-described Subject Matter Expert in Professional Services Automation. The post is titled “Luxury Brands as a Professional Services Market.” It begins with a succinct summation of the luxury question I’ve been pondering. According to Crean:
There is no official definition of what constitutes a ‘luxury good.’
My last post talked about educational institutions that now offer Luxury MBA degrees. This led to the question—what happens once you have such as degree? Interestingly, I just ran across an article from the Boston Consulting Group titled, “Minding the Talent Gap: Fashion and Luxury’s Greatest Challenge for the Next Decade.” The article reveals that luxury companies are struggling to find the right talent. What a perfect time to evaluate whether those Luxury MBA programs provide the same skills and knowledge that luxury and fashion brands seek today. For example, needed skills at the executive level are: analytical and creative skills; retail, product, and brand expertise; and international experience. Continue reading “Finding Luxury Talent”→
After reading through the list, some of my key takeaways are:
There is over saturation in the luxury sector. Brands will need to do an even better job of differentiating their products and services. Customer service, relationship building and social outreach are critical.
Leaders must strive to inspire, empower, measure and reinforce best practices.
Also, and very importantly, look for luxury brands to empower store sales associates who have multi-channel clients to reach out and build human relationships after the client purchases in any channel.
More and more luxury and fashion brands are using omni-channel retailing to maximize their brand exposure and increase purchasing opportunities for their customers. For omni-channel to work successfully, the brand message needs to be consistent across all consumer touch points, including in-store, online, mobile apps, social networking, etc. In order to deliver a seamless customer experience, sales associates will need a new level of training in technology, product and processes. Continue reading “What the Luxury Sales Associate Needs to Know in an Omni-Channel World”→
Luxury has been defined as something that is pleasant to have or experience, but is not a necessity. The concepts of exclusivity and rarity can also factor into the definition of luxury. Value, on the other hand, is determined by the relation of price to perceived benefit. But if luxury is not a necessity, then how do we determine its value? Continue reading “The Value of Luxury”→
Your next room service order at JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts may be delivered with a pirouette. The luxury hotel brand is partnering with The Joffrey Ballet to train employees in basic ballet movements to improve their grace. Extraordinary idea! When I’ve done training with luxury sales teams, I’ve emphasized that everything they say and do should be done with both elegance and grace. I can think of no more perfect metaphor for elegance and grace than the ballet dancer.
The program, “Poise and Grace,” is a series of inspirational video training tutorials led by Ashley Wheater, artistic director of The Joffrey Ballet. In the video below, Mr. Wheater talks about how we can use “everyday choreography” to create poise in our bodies. He says, “Dancers, through their training and through their exercises, [they] embody grace.”
As a brand partner, Mr. Wheater worked together with JW Marriott to identify the four core behaviors that help dancers embody poise and grace:
Flow of Movement
Connecting to the Audience
The exercises take between 5 to 15 minutes to perform. They focus on posture, eye contact, and the use of specific gestures to create an air of confidence and discipline. Vice president and global brand manager of JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Mitzi Gaskins, says:
Poise and posture are globally recognized cultural cues that reflect the care and dedication our associates provide in every service interaction.
By training their associates to interact with customers with poise and grace will elevate the JW Marriott’s luxury service experience to another level. In ballet terms, that’s an elevé we should all try to reach.
For more details on the “Poise and Grace” program, click this link: Marriott News.