Love ‘Em or They’ll Leave You – a beyond basics customer service reminder

We’ve all heard it before: the customer is always right. And part of that entitlement comes from expecting exceptional service when purchasing luxury products, experiences and services. Let’s face it: luxury is all about service. Sure, luxury products are finely crafted, the experiences are unique and exotic, the services are lavish and custom, but where consumers decide to purchase these luxuries often relies on the exceptional service they’ve come to expect from individual businesses. Customers remember the service experience – it wins them over and builds brand loyalty.

In the challenging business climate in which we exist, it is important for companies to define themselves by their expertise or the incentives they can offer customers. One perfect example is outstanding service. When purchasing a luxury vacation with SeaDream Yacht Club, Lucille DePerro, Director of Business Development, ensures the experience meets expectations. Travelers who request a service or product on board during one excursion, expect it forever; for example, a traveler who once requested a specific brand of peanut butter now has it waiting for him each time he enjoys breakfast overlooking the ocean. Passengers who forget their reading glasses at dinner count on the friendly and prompt server to provide an array of frames in all patters and magnifications to easily aid them in choosing their cuisine. In the luxury travel space, everyone presupposes the ultimate experience. It’s the responsibility of the high-end travel companies to hire exceptional staff, train them well and demand that they go above and beyond for the customer.

Speaking of staff, employing the right people is one of, if not the most, important asset to any company. It is also each company’s responsibility to teach team members the mission of company, empower them to build customer relationships and hold them accountable for customer satisfaction. A tool to aid employees with providing remarkable service is access to a customer database. Alexandra Townsend of Lacroix at the Rittenhouse Hotel knows that each guest wants customization and personalization when visiting. Having systems in place to document customer preferences in both the restaurant and hotel facilitates outstanding service in both locations. This, in turn, aids in building relationships, which leads to brand loyalty; customers are more apt to spend money where they feel a connection, especially in tougher economic times. And thank those loyal customers – offering added value services to favorite clients will communicate how much they are appreciated. A little warm and fuzzy goes a long way!

The more luxurious your product, experience or service, the harder you have to work. High-end customers will force a company to meet certain standards. They will know whether your company is truly luxury or whether it’s a lot of flash; and service often dictates categorization. Expectations of service vary from customer to customer, so be sure to listen to your customers on an individual basis, anticipate their needs and exceed expectations. Customers tend to be more vocal when things go wrong, especially during a down economy. To curtail infractions, retain integrity and consistency across your brand, which includes notable service.

In this economic climate, just listen to your customer. Maybe the glitzy, glam luxury is no longer the trend? Perhaps access to exclusive products, services and experiences is important? What if perceived value is the ticket? Whatever the answer – and it will vary with each customer – it is important to understand what matters to your individual customers when positioning your brand, highlighting promotions or training your staff. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but it’s a beyond basics reminder of what works to attract and retain customers. Give customers better communication in uncertain times; the proof is in the ROI.

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