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.
On the stiletto heels of New York Fashion Week comes a wave of new books about women in fashion and fashionable women—in other words, the women who create fashion and the women who wear it.
Let’s begin with the fashion designers, then move on to the fashionistas. The dueling dress doyennes, Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli, each has a new biography. (I’ve sometimes imagined both designers as contestants on Project Runway and fancied who might come out this season’s winner. I think Heidi Klum would flip over Schiaparelli’s fantastical “lobster dress” and “shoe hat” creations, while Nina García would nod approvingly at Chanel’s more accessible fluid jersey suits and dresses.)
Rhonda K. Arelick, in Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and The Pulse of History, positions Chanel’s oeuvre within the context of historical events occurring during her life. Garelick writes, “Whether we know it or not, we are all now wearing Chanel’s distillation of European history.” The much shorter book, titled simply Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography by Meryl Secrest, focuses on how the designer turned “women’s wear from a business into an art form.” The difference in page numbers is attributable to the few personal details Secrest has available to her, after all Schiap was rather shy and secretive. But as far as the lady couturiers themselves are concerned, I’ve heard it said Chanel is sugar and Schiap is spice. Choose your favorite flavor or try them both!
(Side note: After nearly 60 years, Maison Schiaparelli has been reborn with the appointment of creative director Marco Zanini.)
Moving on to ladies who like to wear their fashion, we have Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti, Heidi Jalvits, Leanne Shpation and 639 Others. This book, born as a survey sent to 600+ women, combines brief essays, poetry, photo collections, and survey results into a compilation of how women view fashion as both self-preservation and social survival. It’s not a book that’s meant to be read straight through. Rather, like the clothes in your closet, flip through it to see what jumps out at you, and then return to revisit your favorites.
Last, but not least, we have Betty Halbreich’s I’ll Drink to That: A Life in Style, With a Twist—a phrase I’m appropriating as my epitaph by the way. The octagerian Halbreich was the former preeminent personal shopper at Bergdoff Goodman and she has some beans to spill. Halbreich was stylist, helper, therapist and friend to countless fashionable women from Babe Paley to Lena Dunahm, and with this autobiography, she offers us delicious stories like perfect little cocktails for the sipping. And I’ll drink to that!
10/9/2014 – I’m updating this post with a last minute addition of another book devoted to fashion that just debuted today: Hijacking the Runway: How Celebrities are Stealing the Spotlight from Fashion Designers by Teri Agins. Since it just appeared, I haven’t had the chance to read it, but below is the book’s summary on Amazon:
A fascinating chronicle of how celebrity has inundated the world of fashion, realigning the forces that drive both the styles we covet and the bottom lines of the biggest names in luxury apparel.
When developing sales training, I’m occasionally asked to write scripts for the sales representatives. Thankfully, I’ve been successful advocating for a better approach. My sales training classes are highly interactive and involve role plays that challenge learners to think on their feet. In other words, the goal is to develop better sales associates by instilling critical thinking skills. Continue reading
In 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.