What are the qualities of an excellent Luxury Client Service Advisor? After all, in an international call centre, you will often find the most talented and multi-cultural of advisors. On a typical day they speak two or three languages, flit across multiple client service channels, manage various software applications, handle numerous issues and satisfy many clients.
For most customers they are the first point of contact with a brand they love or from whom they have purchased a longed-for product. They are the front-line when it comes to a retail experience, and as the high-street fights for survival, there is an argument that excellent digital client service is where the future lies. If this is the case, then it makes perfect business sense to have the very best in client service advisors.
This means that luxury client service departments need to attract, develop and retain the cream of client service advisors if it is to be instrumental in growing the brand and maintaining market share.
The 10 Qualities
The majority of advisors are young, aged between 22 and 32. This makes most of them Millennial (1980 to 1994) and some of them Generation Z (1994 – 2005). Therefore, they are highly digital and for many working in client service this is their first job.
As they quickly discover, the demands and expectations on them are high. They need a variety of skills and the ability to adapt to multiple situations and scenarios – fast.
Based on my own experience of advising and working with luxury client services teams, here are some of the characteristics and features of an excellent luxury client service advisor. Some of these are more relevant than others depending on the channel they use, but on the whole the best advisors will have 80% of these.
1. The Natural Communicator
In the office they are natural conversationalists. They are articulate and engaging, someone with good eye contact and the confidence to look you in the face.
When talking to clients they communicate warmth, enthusiasm and empathy, characteristics that help to bring the client closer to the brand, so that the experience is memorable. As good communicators, they listen well. They don’t interrupt and give the right signs to show that they are listening.
They are not shy and because they are interested in people, they are well-suited to handling telephone issues.
2. Emotional Intelligence
They have a high level of emotional intelligence. This is defined as the ability to understand and manage emotions. According to the psychologist, Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence has five characteristics:
- Self-Awareness – an ability to understand and recognise your own emotions
- Self-Regulation – the ability to express your emotion in the right way and at that the right moment.
- Social Skills – being able to interact with colleagues whether they are peers or managers, so that relationships and connections are made
- Empathy – the ability to recognise how others feel and to express this in an appropriate way
- Motivation – a desire to fulfil what is important to them personally which goes beyond money or success, but which is biased more towards internal goals.
As Goleman describes it, once you get all of this right, ‘you have a whole human being.’
3. Excellent Writing Skills
Whether it’s an email, a social media post, live chat or WhatsApp, it is words and the way they are used that makes the experience for the client memorable.
These advisors are excellent at writing and are able to adapt the way they write to suit the channel they work on and the needs of the client.
They can use a tone of voice that is congruent with brand image and ensure that their grammar and spelling are tip top.
None of this is particularly easy, yet it is expected and taken for granted. Consider also, that some advisors are writing in English as their 2nd or 3rd language.
Advisors with excellent writing skills communicate trust, enthusiasm, empathy and a sense of the brand. They can explain the complex simply and introduce humour at the right time and without appearing too informal.
4. Professionally Digitally Savvy
Whether Millennial or Generation X, they are digitally savvy. The platforms and tools they use present few problems and they have a strong sense of what it is to think and behave digitally. However, how you connect digitally with your friends is different from how you engage professionally.
Good advisors are taught to make a distinction between their personal use of social platforms and how they use them at work. They adapt their language and tone of voice accordingly. At the same time they are mindful of the behavioural impact of social media and the instant gratification attitude it can produce amongst clients. They are also aware that not all clients are digital or want to be. As a result, they can handle the older or more traditional demographic
5. Adaptive & Flexible
These advisors are flexible and adaptable in three ways:
- Multi-channel – in a typical week they are accustomed to dealing with clients on any of the following channels: the telephone, email, live chat or social media.
- Multi-technology – they use a variety of tools to engage with clients as well as sales systems in which to find and log client information. They use these with accuracy, speed and proficiency.
- Multi-scenario – it could be a polite enquiry about belt sizes one moment or an irate customer the next. Whatever the scenario, the advisor effortlessly adapts to the situation and the issue to resolve.
In international operations these advisors are multi-lingual. They can do all of the above in different languages.
6. Ability to Sell
Excellent client service is not just about resolution but also revenue. If a customer is unable to visit the store, or prefers to shop online, they need someone who can help them at the end of the phone or via live chat.
It means the client is looking for expertise and leadership. The very best advisors provide this. They understand the needs of the client, develop a rapport and based on their excellent product knowledge, recommend appropriate products. Their tone of voice communicates confidence and so the client has no hesitation in making a purchase based on their suggestion.
Creating relationships is at the heart of what these advisors do. It allows them to convert what was initially a problem or complaint into a sale.
The less reliant society is on the high-street and the more comfortable it becomes with a digital experience, the more significant is the ability to sell.
7. Excellent Product Knowledge
It’s risky having advisors on the front line with insufficient product knowledge, especially in luxury where clients have a much higher expectation of the level of product knowledge and expertise. Excellent advisors take pride in knowing the product in-depth.
They don’t rely only on the product training provided but often initiate a better understanding themselves, either through their own research or with other colleagues.
Advisors who like the brand and who have a happy work environment are more likely to be self-motivated to learn all they can about the products the company sells.
8. Awareness of Brand Values & Identity
It’s hard to communicate on behalf of a brand well if you are not fully aware of what it stands for and the impression it has on its customers. Top advisors have a very clear sense of this. They know the brand values and how they are connected with the way the brand uses styling, imagery and tone of voice to differentiate itself.
These advisors have a belief in the brand and the ethos behind it. It is not just a job but a role in which they take pleasure in. They genuinely care about the quality of service they serve and how it should be representative of the brand.
Such advisors are essential to the well-being of the team. Their knowledge, energy and enthusiasm are picked up by their colleagues and they provide internal team leadership that generates quality and enjoyment.
9. Multicultural Awareness
The best advisors are confident in handling clients in English as well as their mother tongue and many often have a third language.
They are comfortable in dealing with different cultures and know what the cultural idiosyncrasies of each country are. They take pleasure in multi-culturalism and call centres that have this characteristic often appear more adaptable than centres that only serve a few nationalities.
This is why walking into a call centre that serves the needs of an international community is a fascinating experience. It’s a multi-cultural and multi-lingual hot-spot. In the space of a few minutes you move from Germany to Spain onto the Nordics and across to France. You may have as many as ten European countries represented. In this kind of environment, English advisors who are inexperienced at working with foreign cultures or who speak no foreign language are at disadvantage
10. Inspiring Leaders
Not surprisingly, the best advisors are a product of inspiring leadership. Such leaders whether at a director or manager level have:
- A passion and enthusiasm for the brand and the products it promotes
- A belief in the strategic importance of client service
- An understanding of the significance of the narrowing of the gap between in-store and digital experience
- A commitment to training and personal development
- Visibility – they are seen a lot; they know their team and take an active interest in everything.
Inevitably these characteristics rub-off onto advisors, which in turn impacts positively on everyone else.
What really counts…
Are any of the qualities of an excellent luxury client service advisor more influential than others? Yes. I believe that Emotional Intelligence, the Natural Communicator and Inspiring Leadership are the core features.
Without basic emotional intelligence, it’s a challenge to develop all of the other skills necessary to be an excellent client service advisor. This is because so many of them feed off the core characteristics of emotional intelligence.
The natural communicators are the ones with a bit of a head-start and as a result of this ability tend to stand out. This is because it’s possible to link strong communication skills with come some of the emotional intelligence essentials as well as an ability to write well and to sell.
No client services team is capable of delivering an excellent service unless it has Inspiring Leadership. How else do you find and unlock the potential in others?
Leadership recognises the importance of excellence in client service and the necessity of putting in place the mechanisms and culture to make it happen. The very best advisors cannot do it alone.