American Marketer


Affluent consumers demand top-quality customer service: experts

January 12, 2011

Affluent consumers demand customer service


Consumers regard customer service as a top priority when choosing to buy from a brand again and when making recommendations to friends, a study reveals.

Luxury consumers are especially susceptible to wanting good customer service, according to a Spherion study. This is because affluent customers expect to be treated extraordinarily and to feel a personal connection to a product or brand because of the amount of money they are spending.

“Luxury brands should foster a more personal relationship with their customers, while maintaining the brand voice and image,” said Clay McDaniel, managing director and founding partner at Spring Creek Group, Seattle. “This will cement your brand's quality reputation in their minds, turning them into loyal brand advocates who share their enthusiasm with friends.”

Importance of customer service

The survey found that over the past three months, only 32 percent of people have had overall good customer service experiences 80 percent or more of the time.

Most people’s experiences dipped lower, with 23 percent having good service 60 to 80 percent of the time and 23 percent having good service 40 to 60 percent of the time, according to the study.

In terms of luxury brands, this could repel affluent consumers who expect excellent customer service.

“Luxury consumers expect good customer service,” said Laura Ries, president of Ries & Ries, a brand consulting firm in Roswell, GA. “If consumers are paying more, they are expecting more in terms of service.

“It makes sense if you pay more that you’ll get more,” she said.

Reputations at stake

If brands do not offer customer service, they could risk losing loyal consumers.

In addition to courtesy and helpfulness in retail locations, brands should consider free shipping or other perks for online shopping, Ms. Ries said .

Consumers will definitely share experiences with friends and family, so having a reputation for horrible customer service could kill the chance to build a relationship with consumers who have heard bad things through word-of-mouth.

Social networking sites are a great place for brands to monitor what is being said about them. The sites offer places for consumers to comment, as well as a way for them to “follow,” “like” or “ping” brand promotions, events or information to friends.

“Because the success of luxury brands is rooted in the associations, image and reputation of the brand, maintaining and growing your image on social media channels is especially valuable,” Spring Creek Group’s Mr. McDaniel said. “Also, because many brand advocates cannot afford to purchase your products, social media can be a way for these consumers to support the brand in other ways besides purchasing your products.”

A bad experience is tough for a company to overcome, too.

Almost half, or 48 percent, of people who experience poor customer service demand an apology, refund and incentives or coupons to return.

About one in 10, or 13 percent, would not even find these amends acceptable and would refuse to repeat their business no matter what, per the study.

“Luxury brands need to have customer service be a part of their business plan, and they can have some tangible way of having customer service that makes it easy for customers to understand what exactly customer service is all about it,” Ms. Ries said.

“It’s such a lose term and varies too greatly between brands, but if a brand has a focus, then they can think of something that will reinforce a customer service aspect,” she said.

Rachel Lamb is an editorial assistant at Luxury Daily. Reach her at