From Sales Associate to Experience Provider?
In an earlier article, I was defending the idea that dictates that – as far as luxury is concerned – the customer’s experience IS the product.
Obviously, I do not ignore the thousands of man-hours behind the research, design, product development and craftsmanship that are required to make the luxury product. Without them, there is nothing quite obviously. However, if the customers were only and exclusively interested in the product, why would they in the 21st century, waste precious time going to a brick and mortar store when they can shop online in the comfort of their homes or offices? Simply because they are – most often unconsciously – looking for something else: a conversation, a recommendation, an opinion… in short, a human interaction.
What is a sales advisor?
Sales advisor, sales associate, client associate, etc… These are the titles given to the millions of individuals around the world who work in Brick & Mortar boutiques and their most important KPI is often their sales performance. The most successful ones get chased by headhunters to move to other brands, sometimes even cross industries. How often have we seen a Fashion person move to a Jewelry brand, an Automotive professional move to a watch brand? It happens every day around the world. Often, they get noticed simply because they are perceived as top performers and this performance is judged on the basis of high average tickets, high sales volume, important roaster of VIP clients, etc…
This logic however often ends abruptly when we realize that hiring a top salesperson from Louis Vuitton, Dior, Cartier, Chanel or Rolex – all very popular luxury brands – to a slightly less popular brand: Fendi, Givenchy, Chopard or Jaeger LeCoultre. These last examples are still very good, very successful brands, but they do not enjoy the same level of attractiveness amongst luxury customers. So, when the new hire arrives and he or she starts working, they often realize where their limitations lie. They realize that their ability to succeed was not exclusively linked to their individual person, but instead, it was in their ability to maximize the opportunity offered to them by the brands they worked for.
If he or she is lucky, the sales associate finds a way to get back to the brand their originally left, or perhaps a similar brand where they can – once more – be in a position to take advantage of the brand’s great attractivity. If he or she is smart, they adapt by reinventing themselves onto what I like to call an “Experience Provider”.
What is an Experience Provider?
Before I get to that, I would like to clarify some basic principles. All of us as human beings are given a limited time on this earth. We may live to be 70, 80 or even 90 years old. Every day that passes is a day we will never get back, but – we might not realize this every hour of every day – the fact remains that time is an extremely precious commodity. Attention and the ability to focus on a task, on a conversation or an interaction is almost as precious as time as a commodity. No one has the ability to be 100% focused all of the time, so when attention is given, it should be appreciated as such.
A Neuro-scientist and researcher by the name of Idriss Aberkane from France has theorized that for Education to be efficient in a given system, it needs to take into account its ability – or lack thereof – to capture that AT (Attention x Time) capital that the student is willing to spend on a specific topic. The result of such studies and theories can be seen in the gamification of trainings and education throughout the globe and across industries.
Now back to our topic. If a person working in a luxury store understands and appreciate that the customer that visits the boutique is willing to spend a certain number of AT units, then that is a lot more precious than the money that he or she will eventually spend purchasing the product. The customer – just like the employee – will both draw great advantages if they manage to spend their own AT on each other. Let’s try and demonstrate this with an example:
A few years ago, I was with two friends of mine (they were brothers) in Paris having lunch. As we were finishing our meal, one of the brothers who was to be married a month later, stated that he still needed to purchase a Tuxedo for the upcoming wedding. We happened to be across the street from a boutique of a leading fashion brand. Within a minute or two of entering – what turned out to be one of the best retail experiences I had – we were greeted by a relatively young pleasant lady with a big smile. My friend quickly explained that he was looking for a Tuxedo and she naturally asked what type of occasion. When he announced his upcoming nuptials, she lit up just as if she was my friend’s long-lost sister. She congratulated him profusely and asked a colleague to open a bottle of champagne. While we were trying to say how unnecessary it was, she did insist and spent the following minutes enquiring about the upcoming wedding, about the bride-to-be, how they had met…. I could tell that she was genuinely interested in the conversation, and so were we. She then started finding out a little bit about his two companions (my friend’s brother and myself). To make a long story short, we ended up spending a wonderful 45 minute in that boutique, and my friends both purchased a Tuxedo with a couple of shirts while I ended up purchasing a pair of shoes.
While we were trying on the various clothing options, she indeed demonstrated great product knowledge, talking about the quality of the materials, the craftsmanship behind the cuts, they style, etc… but what she was actually doing was giving us her full attention and her very experienced advise. She did not hesitate to tell my friend that shirt B was a better fit than shirt A. She was comfortable enough with her own sense of style to give my friends some direction. And after trying three or four different options, all the while she was properly celebrating my friend’s upcoming wedding, she finally said “look no more, this is it! You look better than Sean Connery in his James Bond outift”. By the time we were leaving the boutique, she was thanking us, not for our business, or our time, but for allowing her – a perfect stranger – to play a small part in my friend’s happy occasion.
This lady was not a sales associate nor was she a salesperson or a client advisor. She was an Experience Provider. Because – and this is important – years later, my friends outgrew their Tuxedo’s, my shoes went out of style, and we certainly can’t remember how much we paid for these items, but we all certainly remember this lady’s treatment of our visit and the experience she gave us.
In conclusion, I would like to say this. If you are a luxury industry professional involved in retail, consider changing your KPI’s priority where sales and numbers come second to customer’s experience and satisfaction. If your team genuinely focuses on giving your visitors the time of their lives, your sales can only improve!
Omar Chaoui – Founder & CEO DynaLux
DynaLux Consulting DMCC is a firm established in Dubai and servicing the Luxury Industry. DynaLux has developed a proprietary technology to assist luxury retail stores understanding in detail the actual audience that visits luxury stores unlike standard CRM tools that focus only on paying customers. By understanding the complete audience of visitors, DynaLux assists brands and retailers alike to improve their conversion rate by addressing the specific issues that can be noticed thanks to data collection and analysis. For more information, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org