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
A few years ago I headed up a training team for a high-end jewelry brand. We were asked to create a learning initiative to help promote diamond sales. The blended program integrated different learning methodologies including e-learning, videos, webinars, games, support tools and in-store activities. The program required sales management teams to coach their local sales teams through a multi-week agenda. While the initiative did improve diamond sales, it unfortunately brought to light a mistaken belief that our sales managers were good coaches.
We looked for a way to help our sales managers improve their coaching skills. We needed a design that was both low-cost (we had exhausted our budget) and time efficient (sales managers were bogged down with daily operational tasks). In addition, we had other programs running simultaneously and could not afford to invest a lot of resources into designing a formal coaching program. Our solution was to create a program where the sales managers became coaches for each other. Here’s how it worked:
- We scheduled 30-minute phone calls with groups of no more than 10 sales managers at a time.
- We wrote a few scenarios of sales interactions “gone wrong.” I played the role of sales associate while another team member played the customer (you could also role-pay with one of the callers if you send out the script in advance. Each scenario lasted 2-3 minutes and focused on an issue such as being rude, giving wrong information, or not asking open-ended questions.
- Prior to the call, we asked one of the sales managers to role-play as the sales manager in the scenario. Once the scenario concluded, we asked the sales manager to provide feedback to the “sales associate” (me).
- After the sales manager finished coaching the sales associate, we asked the other sales managers if they’d experienced a similar situation and how they’d handled it. We questioned whether they believed the sales associate’s behavior would change as a result of the coaching. If not, why not? If so, then why had the coaching been effective?
- We encouraged the sales managers to coach each other (hence “Coach-the-Coach”). We allowed this process to happen naturally; our role was simply to guide the conversation back if it went off track.
- We spent the last 5 minutes of each call reviewing key learning points and emailed a summary to all participants afterwards. Several sales managers offered suggestions for future scenarios.
One unanticipated benefit of the program was that the groups learned over time to trust and depend on each other for advice. The Coach-the-Coach program proved to be a quick, interactive, fun, and convenient way for our sales managers to hone their coaching skills.
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.
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