Written on the 24 October 2011


TWO iconic luxury brands have warned retailers they need to develop superior customer service skills to have any hope of retaining market share and competing with the online boom.

Sofitel Luxury Hotels and Ella Bache are warning others to improve their customer service levels as the online shopping cart picks up pace.

Sofitel Asia Pacific vice president of sales, marketing and distribution, Stephane Laguette says individualised customer service is a growing factor which contributes to success, particularly in the hotel industry.

“Excelling in customer service is the most important subject in our industry and it’s not easy to manage – that’s why we’re continuing to invest in this area and are currently working on a complete connection between our different hotels around the world,” he says.

“We need to be consistent in what we want to deliver and it is something we have to rethink, rebrand and redo on a daily basis.”

Ella Bache national field training manager Amber Scott agrees that consumers’ expectations have changed, with people now seeking out and demanding superior customer service.

“Having superior customer service is essential to representing our brand adequately now more than ever,” she says.

“As a face-to-face business, we have to continually and consistently deliver fantastic customer service. The market is not extremely competitive, but it’s what our clients are asking for.”

Both Sofitel Hotels and Ella Bache have investing in training through service company iPerform. iPerform director of training and development Timothy Millett says Australian retailers are losing their business to online competition not only because of the cheaper prices, but because ‘old fashioned’ customer service skills have been lost.

“Many customers seeking good service are expressing disappointment with their interactions with some of Australia’s biggest retailers and with the retail landscape rapidly changing, the focus needs to be switched from discounting on price to focusing on an improved retailing experience for the consumer,” he says.

“Organisations focused on customer experience generally outperform their competitors two to one in revenue growth and report 5 to 10 per cent higher profit margins. Retailers who are getting it right by creating superior customer experiences aren’t feeling the pinch.

“Luxury brands in particular are really dominating as they realise the value in training their front-line staff to give them expert product understanding and the knowledge of what it takes to satisfy
the customer.”






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