Luxury brands have long been looked up to for the quality of their products and how they treat their customers. They serve a demographic that expects nothing but the best. These brands constantly strive to raise the bar. But luxury-level service doesn't have to come with products that cost thousands of dollars – you can implement these high-end customer service practices in your own small business.
Crown & Caliber, a company that consigns watches from such brands as Rolex, Breitling and Cartier, said that the luxury market is all about honesty and comfort.
"When dealing with expensive items, it is important to portray trust and professionalism," said CEO Hamilton Powell. "Excellent customer service is the best way to put a customer at ease. Successful customer service representatives will portray empathy and will make the owner feel comfortable placing their beloved [luxury item] in safe hands."
We spoke to several small business owners to find out how they incorporate luxury-level customer service in their businesses. Here are the seven essential tips to follow.
1. Offer empathetic customer service.
The most important thing your customer service team must have is empathy. Your reps may be knowledgeable about the product and your business processes, but customers won't feel well cared for if they aren't treated with respect and understanding. Powell said that Crown & Caliber employees follow what they call the "grandma standard."
"When working with a customer, our team has the mentality of, 'What if this person was my grandma?'" he said. "'How would I treat her?'"
2. Collect regular feedback from customers.
It doesn't matter what your perception is of your customer service, Powell said. What matters is how your customers think you are doing. Crown & Caliber performs quarterly net promoter score (NPS) surveys with its customers to get an idea of how the team is doing and where it needs to improve.
"Ask, ask and ask," said Thalia Toha, brand and business strategist. "Ask better questions, and don't let [complaints] fall flat with no visible improvements afterward. The extra mile is not crowded for a reason."
3. Track customer service metrics.
You can't improve upon what you aren't tracking. Powell noted that his company's customer service team has very specific metrics reported to them on a daily basis, such as the percentage of repeat customers and the amount of time spent on the phone.
4. Be available for your customers.
Customers want to know that their voice is being heard and that their concerns are your concerns. Social media, especially Twitter, is a great way to immediately listen and respond to customers who may have an issue, Powell said. But being quick to respond to tweets and comments isn't the only way you should be available to customers. Powell emphasized the importance of taking phone calls for customers who want to speak directly with a service representative.
"It is difficult to build a strong rapport with a customer when the only form of communication is [digital]," he said. "Speaking with customers on the phone does take a bit more time than just emailing them, but it shows them they are worth the customer service representative's time."
Jared Weitz, founder and CEO of United Capital Source, said that businesses should avoid leaning too much on feedback bots and AI to provide a customer experience. "Remember that you are serving people," he said. "AI, service bots and automated content are great resources, but they should not be the only resource for providing service."
5. Get the entire company on board with customer service.
No matter how great your customer service team is, your customers will end up with a fragmented experience if the company doesn't have an integrated process for handling customer concerns. Powell noted that Crown & Caliber's head of customer service meets weekly with its head of operations so that the company's processes can constantly be tweaked to better serve the needs of the customer.
You should also view your employees as the front line of customer service and empower them to deliver great service.
"[Give] generously to your employees so that they can give generously to your customers," said Toha. "Satisfaction is a transfer of energy. Keep your employees satisfied, and they, in turn, will keep your customers satisfied."
Weitz mentioned the Ritz Carlton hotel as an excellent example of empowering employees to create luxury. "They are known for putting their guests first and creating personalized experiences for them."
6. Offer personalized experiences.
So much of consumption these days is about the whole experience rather than just the product or the service itself. Customers are looking to feel special and valued, whether they're shopping for a Porsche or a new paint color for their house.
Jason Taylor, founder of Prestige Transportation, said that he pushes his company to go the extra mile in personalizing and creating value in his customers' experiences.
"For many of our regular clients, we keep notes in their account and bring them their favorite Starbucks drink when taking them to the airport in the morning," said Taylor.
7. Level the playing field.
The Ritz Carlton's motto is, "We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen." This goes along with empowering your employees to create stellar experiences for your customers – if you give your employees the same level of respect that you do your customers, they feel valued and motivated to pass on a positive experience. Furthermore, as a CEO or business owner, you should make a point to interact firsthand with both employees and customers.
"Even as CEO, I get on the phone with customers myself," said Bob Seidel, private jet pilot and CEO of Alerion Aviation. "No request is too small for me to listen to, which makes the client feel important."
Powell reminded business owners that, regardless of your company's size, industry or target market, the customer should always come first.
"It is important to build a relationship with the customer so they feel like they are more than just a transaction," Powell said. "Smaller companies should make this the foundation of their company. Build your company on the idea that it is built to fill customers' needs, and their need should be the priority. No company is too big or too small to provide customers with excellent service."