Customers shopping for prestige items expect nothing but the best when it comes to customer service. “Customers look for service, educated salespeople, and knowing that if something goes wrong with the items, they can count on the store to fix or replace it. They also don’t want to worry that next week the item they purchased will be on a special sale,” says Lovelace.
Excellent customer service is not only a priority to a luxury retailer, it is the key to a successful luxury business, says Mark Gelbs, president of On The Marks, a talent placement firm that specializes in the fashion industry, including the luxury fashion world.
According to Gelbs, there are many facets to excellent service. These can include a no-hassle return policy, the ability to effectively deal with problems and offering VIP treatment to customers—which may involve personal shoppers, a phone call to alert the customer of upcoming events, personalized invitations and appropriate follow-up. “If clients can’t feel comfortable, and if they don’t get what they perceive to be personal attention, they’ll go elsewhere,” Gelbs adds.
Finding sales professionals can be a challenge for luxury retailers. Poelmans doesn’t necessarily choose staff that is already familiar with luxury products. Instead, “I look for people who have basic qualities—respectfulness, commitment, loyalty, a hardworking spirit—and want to learn,” she says. She builds on these basic traits by offering a proprietary training program that allows them to in turn educate the consumer.
For those working in the retail store, Gelbs says desirable qualities include poise, a polished appearance and the ability to relate to the type of clientele that walks in the door. For those involved in design and merchandising, a certain taste level must be there. And if someone is involved in sourcing product, both domestic and overseas contacts are very important. “These qualities are important in the luxury business; whereas in other types of companies, it isn’t nearly as important,” says Gelbs.
Top-notch customer service is not the only thing that’s needed for success, however. Luxury buyers have a number of demands from the places they shop. “Prestige buyers want customer service, quality products and knowledgeable staff all wrapped up in a clean, well-organized and comfortable environment that caters to their needs, wants and desires,” says Blackwell.
[Image: Courtesy of Mojo Cosmetics and Design]