“In the luxury business, you have to build on heritage,” - Bernard Arnault
The quote above sets the tone for customer service in the business of selling luxury. Customer services in such industries must be handled by experienced, seasoned professionals. Such services have the power to sustain luxury businesses over the years and take the trade to higher levels. The heritage and brand value of a product has to be marketed to the discerning clientele. In addition to top product quality, the customer service has to be at par with the very best because such actions alone can sustain the business into the future. Consider this: a high end watch boutique that operates on the premises of a five-star hotel located in the heart of a city. The shop sells only marquee brands to a select clientele. This establishment stocks only luxury brands that sell at globally benchmarked prices, and therefore, customer service is one of the planks that help to sustain this business. Such service can assure the customer that his money is well spent and that he is guaranteed relevant services long after the sale has been closed.
The luxury trade has to earn and retain the customer’s trust in order to function properly. The high-value merchandise – whether it is watches, clothing, automobiles, hospitality, furniture, cruises, etc. – demands careful, calibrated selling practices. High-pressure sales tactics are anathema to luxury businesses. The select clients have to be handled with kid gloves and plied with top notch advice. The rarefied environs of the showrooms used in the luxury trade are a far cry from the usual practices of the mass markets. These showrooms and trade premises have to be tastefully appointed and must carry the veneer of understatement and sophistication. The clients that frequent such showrooms seldom stick to budgets and therefore, the sky is literally the limit for an accomplished salesman. Customer service in this domain has to be perfect and courteous.
The importance of personal interaction in luxury businesses cannot be overstated. The luxury trade in every continent is subject to the usual business cycles and therefore, must be sustained intelligently. The high tides of commerce may create a surfeit of custom in these domains. Such points in the business cycle are marked by heightened activity and interesting levels of growth. In addition, competition in the luxury trade offers choice to the customer. These aspects of the trade need to be evaluated critically and the norms of customer service must be modulated accordingly. However, we must note that every customer in this business remains an asset and must be handled accordingly. Individual tastes, likes and dislikes, personal preferences, and other metrics should be mapped clearly. Such information can help the purveyors of luxury to create bespoke selling strategies and tailor customer service accordingly.
For instance, the luxury consumer originating in a country in Asia has specific tastes and choices. Such consumers tend to shop in luxury establishments in all points of the globe. The merchants are accordingly tuning their strategies to cater to these customers of luxury businesses. Customer service operatives are being trained to converse fluently in the language of the country. They need to create the impression of being fluent in the country’s customs, history, cuisines, and traditions. These are some of the tactics to interact with the customers at any point in the globe. English may not be the best lingua franca when dealing with customers globally. The well-heeled clientele has to be briefed in the best merchandise the season has to offer. Therefore, educating the customer remains one of the primary objectives of the luxury businesses. This remains true because once the customer has created a fair assessment of all that is on offer, he/she has a better chance of arriving at a purchase decision.
The luxury trade compiles numbers and statistics like every other line of work. These numbers reveal that luxury customers tend to be ‘borderless consumers’ that are attracted to all manner of luxury offerings, irrespective of geographical boundaries and national borders. One way of dealing with this elite clientele is to profile them individually and then developing the profile at every opportunity of trade interaction. The luxury businesses take such activity very seriously, and yet such actions are undertaken discreetly. Such activity helps to inform the customer service representative of business matters. The selling and the subsequent customer service may therefore proceed on the lines suggested by the information culled over the years. For instance, if a customer has a soft spot for luxury leather products, the sales and service representatives may team to offer the customer a compelling proposition. A happy customer is likely to share his findings with his social or professional circle, and this may help to multiply the sales of luxury businesses.
Customer service in the luxury trade can find an extension in the form of digital marketing. We may say this is one aspect of the luxury trade that runs parallel to the mass economy. Information can be transmitted to the electronic mailboxes of customers at regular intervals. This kind of information can inform the customer about the latest offerings awaiting his/her attention at the showroom. Digital media can also be used to share an electronic copy of the sales receipt or any servicing statements. Information about special offers and discounted items can also travel to the customers’ desks through email. Such actions may have the effect of amplifying sales. Therefore, luxury businesses are obliged to create and sustain a virtuous cycle that transmits information and garners future business from customer(s).
A reputation of unbiased and steadfast customer service can benefit luxury businesses in the long term. Such soft skills can help the commercial establishment to treat the well heeled customer like a king. This is no mean achievement for the business. The regular customer may also be offered special discounts, in addition to privileged prior access to new luxury offerings. The business must essentially package the experience such that customer service, sales and marketing, and closing the sale form a seamless experience for the paying customer. Loyalty points may be blended into the service package to the effect that the customer accrues special privileges every time he shops at luxury businesses. His/her friends, acquaintances, and family members may be encouraged to shop at similar establishments and these referrals could win the customer special points.
In conclusion, we have to acknowledge that luxury businesses represent a crucial segment of the global economy. The manufacture and sale of high value goods represents the livelihood of many individuals. Skilled customer service is one of the final touches that grace the luxury goods value chain. Interesting customer insights may emerge from an in-depth interaction with the customer. Such insights may boost the science and art of customer service and raise it to the level of a fine art. The human appetite for luxury may be whetted through the services of seasoned customer service personnel. The intelligent application of soft skills and the dedication of service representatives can build a brand that may eventually spread beyond its immediate origins. It becomes imperative for companies in the realm of luxury businesses to strive consistently to provide the highest levels of customer service, or risk losing their high net worth customers to the ‘lying in wait’ competitors.