In a recent interview by Luxury Society on trends for 2013, I mentioned customer service as a critical trend for the coming year, adding that “No one in luxury really likes to discuss customer service because the assumption is always that, as a luxury brand, there is an innate high degree of service.”
On the contrary, many of the world’s leading luxury brands have shamefully low customer service. The problem is not that luxury has neglected service, rather they have neglected the fact that convenience is a measure of service and that customers now expect convenience across a multitude of experiences.
Now, people create on-demand experiences with brands that span more platforms than ever, and the result is that gaps in customer service are exposed.
Someone might see a product in a magazine, type it into a search engine, only to see no matching search results. There are many possible reasons for this (the product was not merchandised properly on-site, an organic SEO protocol is not in place, or it may never have been added to the ecommerce site to begin with), but none of them matter to the customer.
There is also the possibility that a customer’s reaction to the editorial may be visiting the brick and mortar store in search of the item. Here, the experience may be disrupted when the sales staff is not be aware of the editorial coverage or the item in question.
All of these scenarios present pain points for customers, and each of these pain points are a matter of convenience.
After all, time is the biggest luxury of all in our modern world. As customers, we seek experiences that make us feel we are using the commodity of time in the best ways possible. This doesn’t always mean completing purchases in the quickest way; sometimes the element of leisure is what feels luxurious. We might want to spend the afternoon shopping in a boutique, or purchase something and wait for it to be custom made. These are things that some customers deem positive uses of their time. But having to actually work to find a product, gather information or receive good service are all frustrating experiences that ultimately leave the customer dissatisfied.
What brands today must understand is that an individual’s experience as a customer has evolved greatly. Other industries have improved service and raised the standard across the board. Think of Zappos or Net-a-Porter, they have changed the ecommerce experience the same way Jet Blue and Virgin have changed the flying experience. The expectation of a luxury customer will be that a premium brand will at least meet the new standards, if not exceed them.
Just as storytelling now applies to all platforms from storefront to pinboard, internal alignment across departments is necessary to provide good customer service. And even when this is not an easy business reality, exposing customers to internal issues has no place in the luxury experience.
Photo credits: Peter Hince