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Is luxury in the experience?

August 18, 2011

I had a bad experience with a luxury brand recently.  One you’ll have heard of.  Established, premium, and not exactly small or hard to find either.

A bit of background: I ordered the item online.  They took my money.  A few days later they told me the product wasn’t available anymore, then they only refunded me part of what I paid them. They then took well over a week to respond to email communications. Then another week to complete the refund.  And the ‘sorry’ wasn’t exactly great either.

The whole experience got me wondering two things.

Firstly, how far expectations of customer service have changed in a world where brands promise to respond to e-mails within an hour, and you can have a twitter response to queries in seconds.

Everything is faster paced, I believe customers have become less tolerant of bad service (or at least are more vocal about it on a larger scale when they are dissatisfied), and people expect better recompense when things are sub-standard.

The second thing that I wondered was what makes a brand a luxury brand.  Can a brand still retain the ‘luxury’ tag if the experience doesn’t marry up with the price tag?

In a world when how the experience of using a company / product / brand is probably the normal way to judge them – what hope is there when the experience falls flat of expectations?

I read this article by Mark Ritson a little while back.  In it he argues why he believes Apple will be the next luxury brand (apparently it’s just going to take a little time).

And you know what, he might be right.  Not becuase the products are expensive.  Or becuase they are scarce.   But becuase their customer service is faultless.  Whenever I have ever had to interact with their staff they have always been helpful. To the point of replacing a phone that had a slight fault within five minutes of walking into the shop. With no quibble at all.

At the end of the day, that experience is what makes you an advocate.  And more brands should remember that it’s probably more important than the logo, strap-line and values put together.  Because it’s the bit that their customers actually care about.

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