197. Sales & Customer Service Strategies From The Luxury Industry

imagePublished in 2009, Robin Lent and Geneviève Tour’s book Selling Luxury offers brands 88 imperatives to connecting with affluent customers, creating unique experiences through impeccable service, and closing the sale.

Aside from the branding strategy and the quality of their products, another visible distinction between luxury and non-luxury brands is the quality of service, sales and after-sales support.

Wealthy clients are known for having high expectations as well as a large network of other wealthy clients.

5/88 imperatives for being a ‘luxury’ brand:

1. Everyone is a ‘luxury’ customer. Luxury is defined as “the state of great comfort and extravagant living.” This means that despite the word’s connotation, what constitutes as luxury is subjective to each person, regardless of their current economic and social station in life. When you splurge on a bottle of wine, a pair of high-heels, or a venti-iced frapuccino mocha above your usual price range to unwind after a difficult day because you need it, or reward yourself after an accomplishment because you deserve it; in that moment you are a luxury customer.

And in that moment, any brand or a person who disrupts or ruins your moment of luxury will suffer the consequences; you will be much less forgiving of them than you would under normal circumstances. Wouldn’t you?

“Selling and service are at the forefront of every luxury brand.” –Michel Guten. President, Institut Supérieur de Marketing du Luxe

2. Your sales teams aren’t sales associates, they are ‘sales ambassadors.” The customer journey usually follows a predictable path:

  1. Your brand spends a ton of money on advertising, branding, public relations, product design, etc. so potential consumers know you exist.
  2. At some point in their life a potential consumer becomes aware of your product and mentally begins assessing whether or not they want or need it.
  3. Potential customer begins mentally creating a list of all the reasons justifying why he or she need your product.
  4. Potential customer then mentally creates a list of all the reasons why he or she might not need your product at this instant, or what other things he or she could spend his or her money on instead of on your product.
  5. Potential customer approaches your sales location to gather further information to help in his or her decision-making process.
  6. Potential customer is greeted and assisted by your sales ambassador, whose actions decide whether or not the potential customer becomes a customer now, later, or NEVER.

Your sales ambassadors are your brand. They create the experiences that define how your brand will be remembered and talked about.

3.Customers refer customers. More important than making a one-time sale, a sales ambassador’s goal is to provide an experience so profound and enjoyable that that customer not only returns, but also wants to talk about their experience with everyone they know. Always provide an extraordinary experience for your customers, and always give satisfied customers 2-3 business cards as they leave (instead of just one), that way they can have one to keep, and 2-3 to give away to their friends.

What if instead of building brand recognition through marketing and advertising, you spent your budget on creating mind-blowing experiences for your customers?

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In my interview with Executive Creative Director Rory Sutherland, he advises companies to:

  • Spend more time, effort, and money searching for ‘trim tab interventions’ – very small things that have much bigger disproportionate effects.
  • Go after your customers and make them more loyal.
  • Never forget that customer service is relative to expectation. If you create some small unexpected element of surprise for the customer, that will make a huge difference.
  • If you’re in an industry where customer expectation is low, then it doesn’t take much effort to stand out from your competition.
  • Start from the transaction out. Don’t start with advertising. Start close-in to the point of sale and work outwards. What are the barriers that prevent customers from doing business with you? For example, what if a hair stylist sends its customers a text message offering a special reduction over the next week, and those customers could simply book an appointment directly to the text saying “Tuesday at 10:00am” instead of having to call the stylist or book online?
  • A huge amount of human behavior is devised to minimize transaction costs. To anybody under 30, it might seem weird to call up and physically book an appointment when this could be more conveniently done by app or by web.]

4. You could be in competition with a tenderloin steak. There is an underlying reason behind why a potential customer is considering buying your product. If your product costs $90, and if the potential customer in front of you has decided to buy something because he wants to ‘show his wife how much he loves her,’ and his budget is around $100, the potential customer has many, many options to choose from to meet his underlying need:

  • Offer your product to his wife as a gift
  • Treat his wife to a fancy steak dinner
  • Treat his wife to full-body massage
  • Buy her a $100 gift card to her favorite store
  • Decide not to buy anything today and think about it some more
  • Other…

Now imagine what you’re competing against if your product costs $4,000.

5. Complaints are opportunities. Most people don’t complain to you, they simply abandon their shopping cart, never shop with you again, and tell everyone they know how much you suck.

That a customer, or potential customer, actually took the time out of his or her busy schedule to ‘ask to speak to the manager,’ or call or email your customer support, or fill out your online form means that they care enough to help you become better.

To this, not only should you take the time to listen, you should reward the customer above and beyond the worth of their complaint. Why? Because if one potential customer complains about it, how many more potential customers also had the same complaint, but didn’t care enough to let you know why they chose to spend their money elsewhere?

“Treasure complaints. Solving one can have a positive outcome for other customers.”