When Customer Service at Luxury Retailers Disappoints

By Jonathan Spira on 15 March 2017
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One would think that the margins on a higher-end product would behoove a retailer to have trusted staff who provide excellent customer service and strengthen the customer relationship, but that isn’t always the case.

Let’s face it: customers at all levels recognize excellent service, whether it’s a hotel where the staff never disappoints (and anticipates needs sometimes before the guest does) or a local restaurant where the waiter provides service befitting of a Michelin-rated establishment.

Supermarket chain Whole Foods says it tries to “satisfy, delight and nourish our customers” in its dealings and, in general, I’ve found that things generally go well and when something doesn’t, there is very little effort required in solving the problem.


This last point is perhaps far more important than it seems. Delighting customers may be taken for granted, but putting obstacles in the way of solving a customer service problem will be noticed even more and result in customers who shop elsewhere, post unhappy reviews on online review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, and sometimes even picket in front of the establishment.

Apple’s senior vice president of retail, Angela Ahrendts, who previously ran Burberry, has said that the company wants its in-store experience to be more about enriching the lives of its customers than simply selling them things and the company follows a customer service model it borrowed and adapted from hotelier Ritz-Carlton: Steps of Service. Most of the time it works but, as we noted in our January issue, when the model fails, it fails spectacularly.

First, delighting customers and enriching their lives doesn’t necessarily build loyalty; reducing reducing a patron’s effort – the work he must do to get the problem solved – does. Second, acting deliberately on this insight can help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs, and significantly decrease customer churn.

Click here to continue to Page 2Solving Problems Creates Loyal Customers

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