07
May
2013

Why is luxury service the last thing on the list?

Regular readers of this blog will know that in-store luxury service, or the lack of it, is a subject dear to my heart and one that in my view isn’t that difficult to deliver given the right attitude.

At present our luxury audit team is carrying out a mystery shopping exercise in Shanghai across many stores selling fashion, watches and jewellery, from all those brands you’d expect to deliver luxury service. We haven’t finished the exercise yet, and I may well comment on this further when the analysis is complete, but first impressions so far are that service falls anywhere between moderately reasonable to utterly appalling.

Some brands have invested hugely in redesigning their stores in the past 12 month, making them more glamorous with a wider selection of products, but they seem to have turned a blind eye to the service the staff gives the customer. Why? It may be that retail staff in China have a very short-term attitude to their jobs, and don’t see why they ought to be passionate about what they do. Perhaps, they don’t see how the little things actually make a big difference.

Retail staff in luxury stores in China have clearly had an easy life in the past, and they really don’t know how to use service to sell. In fact, selling in some cases appears to be ‘optional’, if a consumer shows interest, they react, if they don’t speak, the staff show zero proactivity. Unfortunately, times have changed in China and things have and will become more difficult, consumers know they want better service, and now expect it, and brands have an opportunity to use great service as a differentiator among their peers.

For some reason delivering luxury service appears to be the last thing on the list for most luxury brands. It is the hardest part of the job, but it’s the part that makes the difference. Are they waiting for customers to complain about in-store service to confirm it’s an issue, or will it take a significant reduction in sales to demonstrate the same thing? Their investment in China so far is huge, but by comparison, the incremental cost of improving retail service is minimal. It genuinely can be the difference between profit and loss if used correctly.

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