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In the first column of a special series, Alfredo Molina tells the secrets of creating luxury experiences for your customers.

selling luxury goods is a question of attitude, not dollars and cents. 

True luxury is about the experience ? the pride of ownership, the pleasure in an item’s design and its quality materials. 

Details transform this experience from ordinary to extraordinary. At Molina Jewelers, that moment starts when you drive up and have your car parked by our valet. Our doorman wears a suit year-round, despite temperatures that sometimes get as high as 118 degrees. His job is to greet customers and open the heavy gold doors for them. Many of our customers think he’s there to park the car. He doesn’t correct them; he does it. It’s the beginning of the unforgettable Molina experience. 

In their book, The Experienced Economy, Professors Gilmore and Pine describe how raw materials are transformed from commodities to goods, from service to experience, through human intervention. So coffee starts as a commodity, is roasted and sold by major coffee distributors as goods. The ambience of your local coffee shop results in a single cup of coffee costing $1.50 a cup. Sitting on the Grand Canal and sipping espresso from a demi-tasse, the experience makes it worth $15. That’s luxury. 

Your goal is to create a similar level of experience for your customers. Make the experience of purchase part of the memory and the pleasure of owning the piece. Our staff all wear suits: the men three-pieces, the women suits from St. John’s, a local high-end designer a la Chanel.  

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I encourage my staff to think outside the box to satisfy customers by exceeding their expectations, not simply meeting their needs to make them happy. It’s a challenge, especially for regular customers. I remember when one of our customers arrived unexpectedly with her au pair and five children in tow. I sent one staff member off to take the children and au pair to dinner and a movie while our customer shopped in quiet comfort. That time out was definitely a luxury for her. On another occasion, when one of our best customers had her 70th birthday, we hosted the party. We flew her and 40 friends to New Orleans and had Aaron Neville, her favorite singer, wish her happy birthday. That customer is important to us. And believe me, she knows it. 

Impossible for you? Believe in it, or it will remain out of reach. Use your resources to the maximum benefit of you and your clientele. Brainstorm your most outrageous ideas; develop them into something worthwhile. Invest in your giveaways and make them something coveted by potential customers. Our own house perfume is based on the original formula for Chanel Five. When customers receive a bottle, it gets used ? and gets seen ? all year long as a reminder of our name. It’s only given to special customers. 

Jewelry is made to be worn. Don’t be cowed by high-end items. Handle the pieces until they are familiar. Treat them with respect, but not awe. Awe is unattainable. Encourage potential customers to try on these special pieces, pointing out some of their special qualities beyond price. When you don a million-dollar diamond, the truth is, you feel like royalty. It’s all part of the transformational experience: you transform dreams into reality. 

Our most experienced salesperson suggests that if someone is shopping with a $10,000 budget, you take three pieces out of the case to show them, priced at $8,000, $10,000 and $16,000. Almost inevitably, they will prefer the most expensive item. Then, show them additional pieces at $16,000, $20,000 and $27,000. Asked what their budget is, the average customer lowballs it ? but is more than willing to go higher. And if they can’t afford the piece they really want, suggest they buy nothing. What good is a Ford when you have your heart set on a Rolls Royce? Suggest that the customer keep on saving, until they have enough to get the perfect thing. They’ll remember you didn’t push them to buy. 
Consider the challenge, daily. Empower your staff. Encourage and support their ideas for customer service. With no baseline, your business is always evolving, always getting better. Whatever you did for the customer last time, you need to do better the next time. Develop an enthusiastic team. Reward cooperation and creativity. 

Every year before Christmas, we host a four-day holiday party. Eleven designers will be on hand. The Phoenix Boys Choir sings outside. There is food, goodies, cider and wine. With music and shopping all day from Friday night until Sunday night, it’s a tiring event for the staff. But they make it special and luxurious. For some people, this is their introduction to Molina’s. And we want it to be absolutely unforgettable. 

Translate that into your own indulgent event. Make connections with others in the luxury business. Partner with one of your community’s top restaurants. Hire the chef to make hors d’oeuvres. Bury gold pieces in the cake, and offer a prize to the guests who retrieves them. Hire local artists to perform live, or to show original works of art.  

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But most of all, enjoy what you do. Help your staff enjoy and be a part of the occasion. Let their passion persuade. Transform your customers’ moods into wonderful feelings.  
Customers want to feel important. And whether they are spending two thousand dollars or two hundred thousand, you want to convey that sense of importance to them. It’s a matter of attitude. 

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