Service en pointe!

JWM Breathe
Photo courtesy of

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:

  1. Warming Up
  2. Proper Breathing
  3. Flow of Movement
  4. 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.

Do You Expect the Same Level of Service Shopping a Luxury Brand Online as You Do in the Store?

BalenciaBagIn an article originally written for Retail Week, Martin Newman complains that he does not receive the same level of luxury service when purchasing an expensive Balenciaga handbag online as he would in the store. To be clear, Mr. Newman purchased the bag through fashion etailer Matches Fashion, which guaranteed him next-day delivery within a three-hour window. Mr. Newman wanted the handbag to be delivered within a one-hour window and felt he should be accommodated considering the price he was paying for the handbag. (I’m not sure who quickly he’d have received the bag if he’d purchased it at directly.)

What are your thoughts? Do you feel you receive better service from a luxury brand when you visit the physical store than when you buy online? Please add your comments below.

Should Sales Training Differ for Luxury Brands?


I just finished a spirited online debate in the LinkedIn group Sales Trainings & Sales Enablement Pro’s, where I had posted the following question:

I believe sales training for a luxury brand needs to be different because of higher customer expectations. Do you agree?

Several folks argued that customers should expect excellent customer service no matter where they shop. I agreed in a perfect world that would be true. In any event, no one should tolerate bad or rude customer service. But I still contend expectations are higher when shoppers patronize a luxury store.

Continue reading “Should Sales Training Differ for Luxury Brands?”

Flip Your Approach to Selling by Thinking About the Outcome First

flipIn my recent blog post “Ditch the Pitch,” I talked about eliminating the prescribed sales script in favor of critical thinking. Not every sales situation can be addressed with a script. Sales associates who can think quickly on their feet will be able to handle unexpected obstacles with grace and elegance, solve problems quickly, and provide a richer customer experience.

With that in mind, I just finished reading an HBR blog post by Joe Panepinto where he says:

Too many companies are still trying to create thick manuals that lay out every possible scenario and a corresponding brand-appropriate response — an “if they do this, you do that” kind of approach. Very reactive.

Continue reading “Flip Your Approach to Selling by Thinking About the Outcome First”

Make sure your online customers are happy before you try to wow them.

online_shoppingIn Michiel Gasterlaand’s article “The Secret to Winning the Customer Service Battle in eCommerce” in Entrepeneur, he states that only 1% of web store customers feel their expectations are being met. Web stores are missing the opportunity to differentiate themselves through customer service. Gasterlaand writes:

Whether they realize it or not, web stores now are competing primarily on customer service. Apart from offering a great product for a great price, customer service clearly is the new battleground.

Continue reading “Make sure your online customers are happy before you try to wow them.”

The Tricky Balance of Marketing to the Affluent

diamond2Yesterday’s Marketplace radio program featured Andrew Sacks, president of AGENCYSACKS and The Affluence Collaborative (two companies that help brands target affluent consumers) speaking about how brands can appeal to the affluent customer. Sacks highlighted two critical points: Continue reading “The Tricky Balance of Marketing to the Affluent”

Do your salespeople really understand the luxury perspective?

Ritz-Carlton ServiceWhen I was at BMW, we designed a training program for the dealers that required them to stay at a Ritz-Carlton hotel. What the dealers experienced as Ritz-Carlton customers became the basis for their learning. We realized we had been asking dealers to deliver a luxury experience to BMW customers without them fully understanding what that meant. After their Ritz-Carlton stay, the dealers were able to articulate their expectations as luxury consumers, and in turn, they successfully translated that experience to their own customers. Training Magazine has just posted an article about a similar learning program conducted by the Turkish luxury supermarket brand Migros, entitled “Migros’ Luxury Perspective.”

The Migros’ training program was conducted in two phases: first was an in-class session, followed by a second phase that included a a trip to New York and London. According to the article:

The program includes competitor analyses, shopping experiences in luxury stores, experience sharing from world-famous luxury brand sellers, a session of listening to expectations from luxury customers, eating in luxury restaurants, staying in luxury hotels, and many other lifestyle experiences.

The entire experience was designed to help associates get “closer to the customers in terms of general culture and experience.” The result was an increase in customer loyalty from 6% to 15%,

What are you doing to help your sales associates better understand the luxury experience you’re asking them to deliver?

What do you think of smart luxury?

smartIn today’s New York Times, fashion commentator Vanessa Friedman coined a new term (with the help of one of her readers): smart luxury. Friedman uses the term to describe designer Tomas Maier’s new aesthetically luxurious styles that don’t carry a luxury price tag. Friedman suggests ‘smart luxury’ could serve double duty as a substitute for the less pleasant sounding ‘wearables’. Who wouldn’t want to buy smart luxury?

What are your thoughts? Is ‘smart luxury’ a phrase that will catch on? (Read the New York Time’s article here.)

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Can brands transcend the language barrier?

Through its innovative Lexus  “Amazing in Motion” campaign with the STROBE project in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Lexus intends to use art as a vehicle to translate its brand across the globe. The art campaign celebrates art, technology, innovation and movement – all elements of the Lexus brand. Above all, “Amazing in Motion” shows a new creative side of Lexus, according to Brian Bolain, Corporate Marketing Communications Manager at Lexus. Bolain believes the STROBE project, through its inventive use of tumbling LED-lit acrobats and stuntmen, will transmit the message of speed and movement across language barriers, “As the brand has now expanded to over 80 world markets, it is more important than ever that there be some common understanding of what Lexus represents that transcends any barriers that language might present.”

The key to Ritz-Carlton’s extraordinary service is training associates to pick up on cues and anticipate customers’ needs.

Our Ladies and Gentlemen: Olivia Brown

Each month, The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center (RCLC) features an interview with an employee — a Lady or Gentleman of The Ritz-Carlton — in order to share an insider’s view of the organization.