Why luxury brands need to think seriously about their customer communication.
I have a thing for watches. Sadly for my bank balance, this desire is not assuaged by a couple of Casios and a Timex. I have a thing for serious, expensive, mechanical watches.
So, because I spend so much time working with clients transforming their customer communication, it’s always interesting to see how my favourite watch companies communicate. I recently sent one watch back to meet its Swiss maker for a service. My watch came back refinished, running as perfectly to time as a mechanical watch can, and ticking silk-smoothly.
The correspondence I had from the watch company… not so good. I wanted to be reassured I’d made the right choice in spending more on a repair than most people blow on a weekend in a smart hotel. With champagne.
I also wanted the communications to sell me the quality of work they were going to do – to explain the processes behind the price, to make me feel special, to tell me I was one of the cognoscenti for buying their brand. They didn’t.
It had nothing to do with how much they care about service. That was clear from the quality of work. This company employs real craftsmen. But applying the same perfectionist standards to their communications would mark them out from their competitors as clearly as a new tourbillon.
The difference – luxury and commodity
Luxury brands exist in a different world from commodities. Customer experience for luxury brands operates on a different, far more emotional, plane. Walk into Argos to buy a commodity Casio and you get one sort of experience. Walk into an authorised dealer to buy an IWC, a Piaget or a Lange & Söhne watch and things will be rather different.
This difference in customer experience for luxury brands is absolutely key. Why? Because people buy a luxury brand for what it says about them – as much as for the thing itself. That means the brand needs to make that experience overt, clear and distinctive throughout.
Customer experience for luxury brands – making the brand real
Everything is geared to making the experience – and the luxury world – real. For some customers it is. For others – the majority – it’s aspirational. That means, when they touch the brand, it needs to be solid and real or they’ll stop believing in it.
But the world won’t always be perfect. And the higher a brand raises aspirations, the further it has to fall when things go wrong. And that’s how I felt when my favourite watch company sent me the estimate for servicing my watch. A bit let down. As though the brand I loved – and have bought into – cracked a little. It was a little like taking the back off one of my Glashütte watches and finding a battery.
There was nothing dreadful about the stuff they sent me – it was polite and accurate. But it didn’t try to reassure me, convince me they’d be the best people to do the work or give me any sense of the brand I’d bought into. People want to be acknowledged by premium brands; to feel they’re special, part of the club, members.
Customer communications – the measure of the brand
Every single communication a luxury brand has with its customers is a chance to prove that the brand has real depth. And, because people need to interact with the brand functionally, the service comms needed to be at least as good as the ads, if not better.Very often the energy and investment gets spent in the more obvious customer communication – and the more technical or operational comms suffers for it.
Customer experience for luxury brands – vital at every stage of the process
That’s why customer communications at every stage of the process – not just purchase – are more vital to your brand than the ads and events. That’s why service estimates, instruction booklets, guarantee cards all matter. That’s why they need not only to carry your brand values but embody them. The process needs to run like a Bentley engine – unobtrusive, smooth, quietly efficient. In short, they need to delight as much as the original product.
Without the same care – or more – than your ads, the whole thing comes down like a house of cards.