Steve Altman

Steve Altman

5 February 2020

Just Saying…

In the service industry there is a saying often used that the customer is always right. Being in the service industry myself I can totally relate to that. Within limits. Even if the customer is not always right you have to give the impression that they are. Simply put, it is reverse psychology. A form of disarmament. And it works. Being too proud or defensive definitely does not.

Within the luxury industry there are sometimes too often, very proud sales associates who quite frankly can appear rather intimidating and act as if they are doing you a favour, rather than the other way around.

Don’t get me wrong, being proud is fabulous. But that pride needs to be shared. Explained. So that the consumer understands what it is about that particular brand or service that is so deserving.

Research shows that the luxury consumer wants to know more about the history and the story behind the brand. In this way they can greater engage, be a proud owner and can even become a ‘de facto’ influencer. What better way to gain new clients and not having to pay for it!

Research also shows that service IS a key brand differentiator. And consumers’ expectations are far greater within the luxury industry. The consumer needs to feel valued and appreciated. Understood.

Unfortunately, Hong Kong service has declined over the past few years. Luxury service should not be transactional as if one is buying a carton of milk from 7-11. This is all the more pertinent in a bad economy. And there are always brands who do well in such an economy. They just have to have that certain edge over others.

Completely unrelated (or maybe not so), there was even a research agency in Australia at a very bad time economically that soared and took market share from others. How you may ask? Simply by employing a freelance stylist to style its front line personnel, how to answer phones in the correct manner (they should never ring more than twice before answering by the way), presentation and business development skills and so no…Not exactly ‘traditional’ within the industry, but it worked.

Have luxury boutiques ever thought about employing an acting coach to help ‘train’ sales personnel how to better engage with their consumer? Agree, again not a very ‘traditional’ method and possibly something that HR departments might have an anxiety attack over…But a thought.

How often have you been to a luxury fashion boutique, with no one there mind you, and the sales associate had their arms crossed (bad body language) looking more like the mannequin in the window than the actual mannequin itself. Not that you want to be greeted by an excited puppy…But you get my point.

The consumer is looking for an ‘experience’, especially in luxury and one that at least appears to be genuine, honest and sincere…And by putting in that extra effort.

As example, how can it take so long to move one garment from Kowloon to Hong Kong, when quite frankly I could have walked faster, when in Rome such a piece was sent to Rome from Venice in the same day. Same brand. Different country.

This is service. I can buy my own champagne, but when you walk into many luxury boutiques in Europe you are immediately offered a choice of drinks. And this is not based who you are or how you necessarily look. I am sorry to say that in Hong Kong I need to be crawling on the floor before I am asked if I would like a glass of water. Just a small thing, but it works.

And never underestimate. Do not ‘judge a book by its cover’. This is often the worst mistake made and is a sure way to alienate a potential customer. Appearances can after all, be very deceiving. The person standing in front of you might look like they have just crawled out of the gutter, when in fact they own the very land you are sitting on.