We all know that the Indian luxury market is making waves across the world and also attracting the international players to enter and expand their presence. What still remains a setback is the trained or skilled sales staff that operates the stores of international luxury brands. The need of trained staff has become important now as more and more people are visiting these stores, have the financial capacity to buy and also are well traveled to know how the sales staff should be.
“Though luxury as a segment has been prevalent for the oldest times right from the time of the royalty's and maharajas, the term and industry has gained tremendous prominence over the last few years with the birth of the nouveau rich and the modern day royalty in the corporate honchos, celebrities, and the new age entrepreneurs, thus expanding the market segment and the need to possess aspirations of luxury. With this market growing, we foresee this to be a strong business segment, thus luring talent and expertise in this field,” says Jeslin Panakal, Group Marketing Head, The Rose Group of Companies.
Employee first; customer next
For long it was always taught that customer is the king; but now the trend has changed. This not a negative comment for sure, but all it calls for is better customer service. The employee should firstly be treated and trained well. So in order to have customer for life, ensure that the employee is trained and kept well.
“An organisation is not run by an individual; it is run by a team of professionals. The business world since centuries have been emphasising that ‘Customer is the king’. No doubt, if you do not give importance to your customers your company will cease to exist. But, what makes a customer important is the unmatched customer service to them. The employee should ensure well-trained and motivated staff. It is very important to keep your employees motivated to work stress free in your organisation. If your employees are happy, be sure, your customers will be more than happy,” says Love Ranga, Co-Founder at Luxury Connect.
The Mystery Shopping Experience
Jean-Claude Roustant, the ex-Retail Training Director at Louis Vuitton, during his visit to India and his first stint with the Indian luxury market went on a Mystery Shopping at the DLF Emporio in New Delhi. Here’s what he had to say: “The experience was good and somewhat not good at the same time. I quickly understood that the stores are very nice and carry the right products. DLF has no doubt kept the standards very high as far as Luxury is concerned. But in some of the stores, the sales staff was not up to the mark. The brand and franchisee have invested in the stores but they need to start investing in the sales personnel as well now. Moreover, during all the years of my experience, I have understood that when consumers buy luxury product they need to be given a dream or a story in the right manner. Luxury never lies in the product only; it lies in the whole story.”
What is missing most of the times, is a proper welcome, adaptation to the brand, subtle questioning in order to understand customer’s requirements, understanding and conveying brand’s DNA and heritage to the clients. They should know that their objective is not to sell, but to create an experience that will make the customer loyal to the brand. ‘A successful sale’ is the end product of a ‘Good Customer Experience’. They should be profoundly interested in genuinely helping their customer.
Skill to serve
Luxury is not about the product, it’s about the whole story and experience. A customer is ready to pay a hefty amount only for the brand name and the treatment they get. So, what becomes imperative for a sales staff at a luxury store is to be polite, well dressed, customer centric and knowledge about the product and brand.
“Being a luxury consumer is not just about buying an expensive product, it is an experience. It is important for us to ensure that we continue to make the shopping experience of our customers more delightful each time they visit our boutiques. A customer centric approach, politeness and knowledge of the product are a pre-requisite, handling after sales service is also critical,” says Roasie Virq Ahluwalia, Corporate Affairs, Genesis Luxury Fashion Pvt Ltd.
“When we talk about luxury, selling is not the objective. A luxury product or service is its creator's vision. If we are able to make our clients understand this vision, our job is done. So, it comes down to good customer service,” adds Ranga.
Moreover, a trained staff only ensures customer loyalty.
The Indian luxury market is all set to grow with the number of HNIs growing. What is also a well known fact is that there will be a strong insurgence of luxury brands in India and the industry will have to move at a very fast pace to overcome the shortage of sales staff. The industry already, according to reports, faces a shortage of trained staff by 30 per cent.
The things will only worsen if the employers and training professionals don’t take up the training seriously.
“We hardly have trained staff in luxury stores, with not very upto the mark services. The basics of customer service are not being followed and product knowledge is missing altogether. Next five years will see lot of luxury brands entering India; sure there will be a shortage of trained staff in luxury.”
Finishing the diamonds
A trained staff is the first and foremost attribute that creates customer loyalty for luxury brands. Keeping this as the thought, companies are leaving no stone unturned to ensure best of training for its staff.
“Training is an absolute essential in this business as in any other. We have extensive in-house training programs that not only provide basic induction training to build skill sets, but keep refreshing them in our staff. Service does not stop at the sale, handling after sales service is also critical. Such aspects are part of training modules that are delivered at regular intervals by our trainers,” says Ahluwalia.
While Panakal informs, “Our key focus being the extension of a luxury experience during the indulgence in luxury possession. We believe in engaging our customers into conversations of luxury, lifestyle and extending knowledge on the product, the collection, the watch complications and the heritage of brand to help our patrons make an evolved and informed decision to acquire, possessions of luxury. Training is an ongoing process, though we have a training calendar with periodic training on different aspects of luxury, fashion, lifestyle and product.”
Moreover, adding to the training segment, Luxury Connect and institute including IAM are coming up with dedicated courses for luxury staff.
While IAM India offers Strategic Fashion and Luxury Retailing, which is a 6-month programme, Luxury Connect has joined hands with SDA Bocconi, Italy, to train the manpower.
Luxury Connect recently concluded a three-day Luxury Customer Experience Management Programme for mid-career professionals in the industry. The company teamed up with the Retail Training Director at Louis Vuitton, Mr Jean Claude Roustant, for this programme.