Verve Marketing and Design

The secret art of shopping and the dying art of customer service

For all of our needs there are a million and one different options. We may never be able to pin point exactly what makes a loyal customer, but no one has ever told me that they shop somewhere routinely for luxury items despite bad customer service. We’re not talking poor customer service, here — that is an entirely different issue and those retailers with poor customer service usually retain customer loyalty through a combination of rock- bottom prices and steep discounts. But that’s hardly the m.o. of a luxury brand. So how do the luxury brands maintain customer loyalty while charging non-discounted prices? Simple—extraordinary customer service. Most luxury retailers understand that the consumers who seek out the best products also usually expect the best service. And that’s not just during the sale. It’s no less important pre- and post-sale. I should state up front that I am a shopper. More to the point, I am a savvy shopper, who appreciates the marketing premise behind extraordinary customer service. In my next life I would love to come back as a mystery shopper, although I am told I am too strict in that my expectations are too high. That comment always surprises me, because why shouldn’t I expect extraordinary customer service when buying a $600 pair of shoes or a $3,000 purse? Those amounts are truly ludicrous to pay for such items— but, as we all know, luxury shopping is an addictive sport. It’s not that difficult to provide customers with extraordinary service. Much of it involves nothing more than common sense, really— and the best part about it all is that it’s free! What’s really astonishing is why do so many retailers fail at this.

Here are some tips:

  • Know your customers’ names. Simple.
  • Remember things about them—their job, their spouse, their kids, their pets and ask them how everyone is doing.
  • Remember what they have bought in the past. Show them a new sweater that just arrived that would work perfectly with the skirt they bought on their last visit.
  • Tell them when clothing doesn’t look good.
  • Maintain your friendly attitude even when they don’t buy. The last thing you want are customers who resent their purchases because they felt pressured. They won’t be returning anytime soon.
  • Call your customers when the new shipment from their favorite designer arrives— tell them you are holding their size.
  • Call your customers on their birthday/ anniversary and ask them if they need something special to wear. Offer them a discount as a gift.
  • Follow a large purchase with hand-written thank you note.
  • Learn the location of that fine line between hounding your customer when he/she looks around and ignoring him or her all together. Both are careless mistakes to make.
  • Do not press your customer to make a purchase when they tell you it’s too much money or that they really shouldn’t and can’t afford it. Your customer is likely either to return the item to you once they toss and turn after a sleepless night or they will feel so guilty about it that they will never come back to your store. Neither outcome is worth the sale.

Have you had enough? Are you thinking that this stuff is so elementary that it won’t make a difference? Try it. Next time you go shopping, keep these observations in the back of your mind and see how many mistakes the sales people make. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a sales person tells me that something looks great on me when I know it doesn’t. Try it—Pick out several outfits to take into the fitting room that you know will look terrible and give it a whirl. A great sales person will return to the fitting room with a few options from the floor and help guide you to a better choice. That is an experience worth your time and money. I will leave you with one last blunder. I experienced this oversight six months ago and it still lingers in my mind. I purchased a very expensive watch for my husband’s birthday. It had to be sized and the jeweler offered to ship it to my home (at no extra charge) to save me a trip to pick it up. So far, excellent pre-sales and sales experience, with the promise of a stellar post-sales experience. I was very thankful for this kind gesture. The watch arrived on time and perfectly sized. But, they hadn’t bothered to set the time or the date. Not a big deal, but a lost opportunity for me to remember this as an extraordinary experience. Wouldn’t setting the date and time have been much more consistent with the levels of thoughtfulness and service they had shown up to that point? I can’t leave you on a negative note, for there are practitioners of extraordinary customer service out there. Do you want to know the secret of the man that gets me to buy way too many pairs of $600 shoes?

  • He calls when something comes in that’s so “me.”
  • He always remembers my size.
  • He always asks about my husband.
  • He always asks about my son.
  • He’ll take something off the sale rack that he knows I looked at when it was full price … and holds it for me.
  • He has my credit card and shipping information on file and he could care less if come in to look and don’t buy.
  • And when he doesn’t see me for a while, he calls to make sure I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. That my friends is superior customer service and that is why I go out of my way to give him my business, time and time again.

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