Milton 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
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.’
The day after I finished writing my last post “It’s All About that Service” I caught chefs Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert (Le Bernardin) being interviewed on CNBC. Though both chefs were in the studio to talk about their new cookbooks, the conversation was more focused on why fine dining continues to thrive as a business while other luxury sectors are in a decline. “Right now, people want an experience.” says Eric Ripert This sentiment echoes what I wrote in the previous post—that there is an oncoming shift from having “things” to having “experiences.” Chef Ripert goes so far as to suggest the success of fine dining augurs better days ahead:
When fine dining does well it means it’s going to be good down the line.
Yesterday someone told me there’s no point in trying to exceed customer expectations, because once you do, the bar is raised and the exception becomes the norm. It creates a never ending spiral upward. All I can say, is “poppycock” (yes, people used to say “poppycock,” probably the same folks who used to say “balderdash”). Anyway, you get my point. Continue reading “Should We Try to Exceed Customer Expectations?”→
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”→