My husband and I recently spent a week vacationing on the beautiful island of Crete. Despite the financial challenges the citizens of Greece are facing, we were unfailingly welcomed with smiles, generosity and meraki. ‘Meraki’ is a Greek word that is somewhat difficult to translate. Perhaps the best definitions of meraki are “to do something with soul, creativity, or love,” or in other words “to put something of yourself into what you’re doing.” Continue reading
While luxury brands are starting to understand the importance of creating a seamless brand journey through omni-channel marketing, the luxury consumer still enjoys the personal, white glove treatment. According to a new report by the Luxury Institute, consumers rely more on the knowledge and service expertise of the in-store sales associate for their purchasing decisions than they do on their laptops or cell phones. That means luxury brands should be investing in training their sales personnel to deliver a unique and superior customer experience. Continue reading
This Harvard Business Review post, “Luxury’s Talent Factories,” discusses how large luxury conglomerates such as LVMH, Kering and Richemont actually drive talent performance. Most management research would argue the opposite. It’s generally accepted that companies can increase their financial returns by focusing on core lines of business. Contrary to this evidence, the article states: “Diversification generally does not add value unless there are significant cost savings and operational synergies across units—which isn’t necessarily the case with all luxury groups.”
Diversification generally does not add value unless there are significant cost savings and operational synergies across units—which isn’t necessarily the case with all luxury groups.
According to the article, here are some of the reasons the “Big 3” are able to use their size to their business advantage in developing luxury talent:
Mobility – Diversification of internal brands means that employees who move from subsidiary to subsidiary bring a core set of brand values and skills. They are also better able to build their personal networks across multiple internal brands. The advantage to the enterprise is that they’re able to leverage talent when and where they need it.
Best practices – The organization can identify and transfer best practices across products, and gain the benefit of new perspectives at the same time. In one case, CRM talent from a fashion group was brought in to help build a CRM function for a watch brand.
International Experience – Cross-cultural exposure inspires creativity and provides exposure to a larger pool of manufacturers and suppliers.
Understanding the Global Customer – As technology and social media create a growing international marketplace, it’s imperative that brands understand how luxury customer expectations vary from country to country.
Although Europeans can explain to customers what luxury means, they also must have experience in foreign markets to understand which aspects of luxury the customers there actually care about. For example, in America consumers will buy watches for their functionality or performance, whereas in Asia it’s more about the prestige of the brand.
The three large luxury groups are able to leverage these advantages for the individual as well as for the enterprise. It only works, however, when the group is able to keep its brands relevant and continuously invests in developing premium talent.
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.
When a customer is dissatisfied with your product or service, here are six steps you can follow: Continue reading
“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.
The month of December is traditionally one for giving and receiving gifts. It seems fitting then, as I try to select the perfect present, that I’ve spent most of the month addressing the question “What is Luxury?” (see “Is the term “luxury brand” overhyped?” and “More on What is Luxury?“).
We may have to leave the year with the question unanswered, or at the very least, we may have to settle for a paradox, according to a recent article in The Economist: “The Modern Luxury Industry Rests on a Paradox.”
I thought it fitting to wrap up the year with this article. It covers all aspects of the luxury question from many perspectives: age, geography, politics, world events, and social climate. Continue reading