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The art of selling luxury
A smart sales consultant may have to subtly direct customers who are new to luxury, says LV's retail training director.
Global luxury brands pride themselves on the superior and personalised shopping experience they offer. But in India, customer service isn't always as luxe as the goods on sale. Staff can make the error of judging people by appearances. A sari-clad woman who doesn't speak fluent English often gets ignored while the stiletto-sporting person is fawned over. But as the market for luxury goods in India - currently pegged at Rs 28, 500 crore - grows, the demand for highly skilled, pleasant-mannered sales personnel who can create exclusive shopping experiences is increasing. Recently, Luxury Connect, a marketing agency, launched the 'Luxury Customer Experience Management Program' in India in collaboration with Jean Claude Roustant, retail training director with Louis Vuitton. Roustant who has been with LV for 13 years, tells TOI-Crest how shopping for luxury can also be a 'luxury'.
What do you think Indian luxury store staff lack?
I visited a luxury mall in Delhi and I quickly understood that the stores are very nice and carry the right products. But the staff was not up to the mark as far as luxury standards are concerned. The brand/ franchisee has no doubt invested in the store but they need to start investing in the sales personnel as well. What was missing most of the times is a proper welcome, introduction to the brand, subtle questioning in order to understand the customer's requirements, understanding and conveying the brand's DNA and heritage to clients.
People who buy luxury seem to like store staff giving them advice on what to buy and what doesn't look good. How important is saying "no" ?
A luxury brand is the vision of its creator (like Giorgio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld or Ralph Lauren), a vision that they impose on others. It is not taste;it is their perception of taste, what they believe is luxury. A sales person has to pass the creator's perception on to the clients in every small detail. A sales consultant will have to lead the customer to a product that will best suit them, that will match their complexion for instance. A smart sales consultant will sometimes have to direct the customer subtly because the new customer may not be familiar with luxury. It is common to see the newly rich wearing the wrong belt, the wrong shoes or a very blingy product.
You have been with LV for more than a decade. What's their secret?
In LV, it is not about selling but explaining the brand, linking the creation to history and being capable of discussing the features and quality of product.
Luxury clients can get very demanding. How should the store staff deal with such difficult customers?
Clients are demanding and they have every right to be demanding. In fact if you label them "difficult", you will see them as "difficult". I prefer to use the term "challenging" instead, so that you know that with your attention, you can turn them into loyal customers. The job of the sales consultant is to welcome the customers the way they would like - it could be in a private salon with their preferred brand of champagne or their favourite chocolate. Some customers can be very rude, but the job of a sales consultant is to establish a good relationship with them.
MUST-DOS FOR LUXURY STAFF
Perfect grooming Treat all customers equally. Personalisation is a must. Serve them their favourite champagne or chocolate when they come to your store Eye contact, smile, subtle questions to find out what they need Love the brand and share it with customers Build customer experience by creating unforgettable moments for your customers
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