Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It's all about service, stupid

Don’t fret if you didn’t manage to attend the Forbes Global CEO Conference, I’ve got insights to share; well at least if you market to the rich anyway.

One of the talks I attended was a session titled Life’s Luxuries, which offered the barest of glimpses into the lives of the obscenely rich. Underscoring the seemingly light hearted session was the knowledge that the luxury sector is becoming big business these days, what with the growing number of million/billionaires in the world. China, in particular, was singled out during the session as the fastest growing ‘millionaire’ country in the world, and as incomes across Asia rise, more and more new markets are opening up for luxury marketers.

How then can luxury marketers court the rich? One of the hot topics raised was the question of service. Panellist and MD of YTL Corporation Francis Yeoh said one of his pet peeves was the fact that as a frequent first class flyer, he expects his airline to know what his favourite drink is, and what his favourite seat is, which they don’t despite there only being 12 people in first class. And right there is what differentiates luxury from normality – the service you get. What rang through the conference was that get the service right and the rich will pay, and keep coming back.

That’s why Thailand is so well-known as a country with impeccable service; one panellist described it as the silicon valley of service. Because the competition is so stiff, among hotels for example, the service each establishment offers is sometimes the only differentiating point to ensure customer loyalty.

Being innovative and creative was another point brought up. One speaker said it was imperative for those in the luxury business to challenge conventional norms of luxury in order "create individual special experiences", in short going "beyond the necessary, in defiance of the ordinary" to create intelligent luxury. Because let’s face it, the obscenely rich don’t really need a luxurious product, they need the experience that comes with having one. It’s more about emotions than about the price points. Hope these points help some.

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