From Cox Research News:
Have you ever had to pump up your self-esteem before entering a luxury goods store like Hermes or Chanel?
New research by Marketing Professor Morgan Ward of SMU Cox School of Business and co-author Darren Dahl, University of British Columbia, offer a contemporary analysis of an age-old problem — the effects of salesperson snobbery in luxury goods purchases.
The authors found that in the long run, rejecting customers doesn't pay off.
In Ward's assessment, there is a major takeaway: "If salespeople are rejecting consumers that aspire to own the brand, in the short term, the consumer will be more interested in purchasing, wearing and displaying the brand. While this gains the affiliation and loyalty of the new consumer and a hefty sale in the short term, in the long term it is not the case."
A rejection-aspiration complex
Rejection or condescending attitudes are notably experienced by consumers from sales staff at luxury retailers. Complaints by consumers have made some luxury retailers train staff to be more approachable, including changes to store facades. Louis Vuitton adorned its Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive entrance with a cartoonish, smiling apple figure meant to be welcoming, the researchers note. Customer service research supports the practice of training personnel to be friendly and inviting to attract and retain loyal and satisfied customers.
The research challenges this notion by exploring how negative customer service experiences can, in some instances, facilitate more positive attitudes and customers’ desire for the brand.
People's innate need to belong to social groups that define and affirm their identities is a source of the rejection-aspiration complex that the research aims to break down. People will go to great lengths to re-establish their social standing in important in-groups after a rejection, attempting to find social harmony, say the authors. Their findings come from a four-part study.
A downside of the rejection is the effect over time, Ward says. "If someone already 'fits in' with the brand, they are immune to the rejection, but not those that aspire to own or be the brand," she adds. Aspirational groups are the newly wealthy or those with new financial means owing to the age of the consumer. "You may reject potentially really lucrative customers in the short term but in the long term they are not brand loyal," notes Ward.
Consumers are more responsive to rejection from salespeople of brands that represent an ideal self-concept, such as the luxury goods of Prada and Louis Vuitton, or the eco-conscious Toyota Prius. A consumer's relationship with a brand is developed over time, the research notes and their results are likely to be brand-specific.
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