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
Back in October I posted a blog entry titled: “Should Sales Training Differ for Luxury Brands?” The post generated quite a bit of discussion around whether the luxury customer’s higher expectations for service required a different level of training for sales associates. Now it seems educational institutions are beginning to recognize the luxury sector as an industry that demands a specialized curriculum. Continue reading
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.
- It’s all about developing relationships, particularly across channels. (See my previous post What the Luxury Sales Associate Needs to Know in an Omni-Channel World).
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
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
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:
- Warming Up
- Proper Breathing
- 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.
Last week I visited a well-known electronics retailer to purchase a new tablet. The battery on my own tablet was no longer holding a charge and I thought I’d try some of the new models. I visited this specific retailer knowing they had various test models on display. Of course, the devices were cabled to the display stands to prevent pilfering—this makes sense. However, as I picked up a test model an alarm went off. It wasn’t loud enough to be heard throughout the store, but it was loud enough to be annoying. I spotted a salesperson and asked for assistance. Her reply was that she wasn’t authorized to disable the alarm and I would have to wait for a tech person. After a few minutes a tech person arrived and shut off the alarm. He warned me, however, the alarm was quite sensitive and would probably go off again. He suggested I visit another area in the store dedicated to that manufacturer. I waited there approximately 10 minutes as the single salesperson assisted another customer. Frustrated, I returned to the original display and picked up a different model tablet. Guess what? More alarms! I left the store.
Today marks the first day of National Customer Service Week (Oct. 6-10, 2014). To kick off the week, I thought I’d share one of my all-time favorite movie clips from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It’s the scene where Holly and Paul try to purchase something at Tiffany for $10. Though the salesperson asks a few too many closed-ended questions, and Tiffany really won’t engrave anything not purchased there, the spirit of excellent customer service still shines through:
Though it’s called National Customer Service Week, we know the real secret for exceeding customer expectations is to turn customer service into customer experience. Here are some guidelines for creating an exceptional customer experience:
- Create some magic
Whether I’m purchasing a designer dress, dining at a posh restaurant, or checking into a four-star hotel, create a little magic for me! Sales associates at Louis Vuitton don white gloves before presenting a handbag. Harry Winston offers you a glass of champagne as you peruse their diamonds, and Ritz-Carlton instructs its employees never to say ‘no’ to a guest. Think about how to make the customer experience magical and unforgettable.
- Make me the center of your universe
Of course you have other customers; of course you have paperwork to complete; but while I’m your customer, I should have your complete attention. Ask the right open-ended questions to better understand what I want, and then listen. Sounds simple, but I cannot tell you how many sales associates talk more than they listen.
- Be the brand
Your attitude, dress and language should reflect your brand’s image. Your passion for the brand should come through in your actions and words. Is your vocabulary consistent with your brand’s message? Share a bit of history, express excitement about your latest product, or tell me how much you love what I’ve chosen and why. I like your brand; that’s why I’m here. If you’re not crazy passionate about your brand, consider working somewhere else.
- Consistency, consistency, consistency!
Everything the customer sees and hears—from the décor, to the background music, to the way the purchase is presented—should enhance the experience. Carefully consider every design choice to ensure it exemplifies the brand. Pay attention to every detail. The Tiffany bow is never askew! Remember, the customer experience goes beyond the store. Advertising, websites, social media, corporate responsibility, and after-sales service—all need to align with the brand promise.
On October 8, 1992, President George H. W. Bush signed Presidential Proclamation 6485 establishing the first week of October as National Customer Service Week™. For more information about National Customer Service week, visit the PACE website.
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.