Is Louis Vuitton Delivering an Effective Experience?

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Ladies love Louis Vuitton, especially in Asia. However, based on my informal surveys by asking the audience when I conduct training and conference in US and Asia, most say they don’t enjoy, some even say hate, the shopping experience at LV retail stores. Though no one would deny that Louis Vuitton is a successful brand, it doesn’t seem that a good retail experience is being delivered. Yet, I’d argue that the bad retail experience is consistent and synchronized with all other touch-points in delivering the unique brand values to target customers, or simply put, an effective experience.

An effective experience fulfills two conditions: it creates positive emotions and memories to target customers; and, at the same time, it delivers target brand values.



To illustrate my idea, and for simplicity’s sake, let’s draw a stripped-down version of an Emotion Curve* for a Louis Vuitton retail store (Figure 1) featuring only five sub-processes—from entering to exiting the store. The sub-processes are ‘store outlook and interior decoration’, ‘product’, ‘price’, ‘service’, and ‘feeling of prestige.’ Louis Vuitton does an excellent job in advertising, public relations and celebrity events to create their luxurious and exclusive image, and the actual experience with store outlook and interior decoration, product and prestige feeling are synchronized with customer expectations and echoed through Louis Vuitton’s brand values**.

What is the ‘pain point’ at Louis Vuitton retail stores? Besides price, from the responses I received, it’s the ‘attitude’ of the salesladies—unless you’re a celebrity or dress and look like a ‘rich’ person—they usually ignore you. I’ve been told this is a consistent experience across the globe, not country or region specific. However, the pleasure peak is projected at ‘prestige feeling’, part of this feeling could be constituted by observing how the rich & famous are being served and how the normal customers are being ignored inside the store. None of us like to be ignored, but since the pain is so intense—the way we are treated is one of our critical needs—it’s strong enough to trigger our Psychological Immune System to rationalize our suffering for something of great value.

Kahemann’s Peak-End Rule told us we could remember only the peak and end moments during an experience. Though we’re suffering from being ignored, our pleasure peak is at the feeling of prestige; one of the most critical needs of Louis Vuitton target customers. This feeling is the key brand value—the Effective Memories of a Louis Vuitton retail experience are highly positive both to customers and to the brand. In this sense, Louis Vuitton is delivering an effective experience.

Most customer process cycles can be divided into three stages: prospecting, buying, and consuming. Again, for simplicity’s sake, we will simply locate the key touch-points in Louis Vuitton’s case, i.e. advertising, public relations, celebrity events, website, retail stores, products, and call center. We will assume marketing communications and product have done a great job in generating positive emotions, while website and call center are relatively weak. When we match the emotional feelings at each touch-point, we can derive an emotion curve for multiple touch-points as in Figure 2.

With Figure 1 and 2 showing the emotions curves of single and multiple touch-points respectively, we may think we’ve grasped a general idea of how well we’re performing in terms of delivering effective experience to our target customers. However, without taking into consideration ‘Importance‘ and ‘Brand Values‘, we may be misled by the X-VOC data or by people gaming the system in their self-interest.

Not every customer is equally important to you. Similarly, not every touch-point is equally important to your customers and to your brand. Thus, deriving the importance of touch-points (either stated by customers or implied by correlation or regression analysis) is necessary to justify and optimize resource allocation amongst multiple touch-points.



I believe most of us are familiar with the Importance-Satisfaction Quadrant Chart. The general idea is to maintain those attributes with high importance and high satisfaction, improve those with high importance but low satisfaction, spend less on those with low importance but high satisfaction, and minimize those with low importance and low satisfaction. It sounds logical . . . but it can be wrong.

If you survey the customers of Southwest, Amazon and Ikea, they will probably tell you these companies can improve by serving meals and movies or offering help-desks and reducing DIY tasks, all are critical needs (high importance) and yet poorly-performed (low satisfaction). Should these companies listen to their customers about such improvements, they’d no longer be the great brands they are today. Actually, they do listen. They listen carefully and perform superbly by focusing all their resources and energies on a limited few critical needs of their target customers—which are and should be identical to their target brand values—then they relax their approach to other needs or even Let Their Customers Suffer.

Figure 3 shows the projected positions of various touch-points based on the Branded Experience Index (BEI) and Customer Experience Index (CEI). The BEI and CEI are generated by aggregating the weighted ratings of the emotional feeling at the peak and end experiences (the effective memories) to brand and to customers respectively. There are three experience regions—Branded, Non-Branded and Un-Branded—each represents different degrees of experience effectiveness. Each touch-point is denoted graphically in circle with its size reflecting the degree of importance.

Customers may feel very positively toward your company but not relate to your brand unless you’re delivering your target brand values at the customer experience. This is the foundation of brand loyalty. On the other hand, customers won’t be attracted if the experience is solely working for the brand’s interest. If a touch-point is located towards more to the left (or to the right) of the diagonal (dotted line), it implies it’s too brand-centric and not taking enough care of customers and vice versa. The best scenario is to locate along the diagonal. Under the constraint of limited resources facing by all companies, and to ensure the delivery of consistent, positive and branded experiences, the ideal strategy is to locate the more important touch-points (bigger circles) in the Branded Experience Region; the less important ones (smaller circles) at Non-Branded Experience Region; and under no circumstance should you allow any of your touch-points to fall into the Un-Branded Experience Region.

By doing this, you are optimizing resource allocation, maximizing customer satisfaction and brand impact, in short, delivering effective experience.

*Emotion Curve is invented and first put into applications by Mr. Sampson Lee, president of G-CEM, in 2006. It is one of the experience assessment and management tools of the U.S. patent-pending Branded Customer Experience Management Method registered by G-CEM. Emotion Curve maps the customer emotions generated at each touch-point or sub-process, and links them to form a curve in reflecting the perceived experience across the entire customer lifecycle (covers all touch-points at stages of pre-purchase, at-purchase, and post-purchase), or at a specific touch-point (e.g. retail, call center, website, etc.). Unlike the conventional approaches focus on enhancing efficiency and are process-centric; emotion curve represents the genuine customer feeling by addressing emotions and five senses, in a natural time sequence from an experience perspective. It is a truly [customer-centric] experience assessment and management method. The statistic data of emotion curve is derived through substantial X-VOC surveys, from the experience ratings on each touch-point or sub-process, evaluated by different target customer segments. The definition and selection criteria of touch-points and sub-processes are based on vigorous and scientific research, method, and sequential steps. An Emotion Curve shows how customers perceive experience. It is an innovative and powerful tool for creating a branded customer experience strategy. Furthermore, through a simple curve, from CEO to receptionist, no matter in boardroom or post room, all people in a company could easily understand and communicate the customer experience levels, by using a common graphical language.



**Louis Vuitton’s chief executive Yves Carcelles once said: “Our brand is about reliability, quality, style, innovation and authenticity.” But that may not complete, according to Richard Wachman of London’s The Observer: “Louis Vuitton is also selling a certain idea of France… a brand that represents a mythical France, one of which neither the French nor the outside world can get enough.” In short, the essence of a luxury good is its exclusivity, i.e. not everyone can afford it, only a small group of people can enjoy it, and Louis Vuitton pushes exclusivity to the extreme.

24 COMMENTS

  1. Sampson

    Another very interesting, well researched and challenging post.

    Louis Vuitton’s LVL brand is a luxury brand. It is intended to appeal to those who value fine craftmanship, tradition, style and above all, exclusivity. It goes without saying that they must be relatively affluent to afford LVL products in the first place. This creates a huge incentive for ‘ordinary customers’ who want to be seen as stylishly exclusive but can’t really afford LVL products. Hence the large ‘knock-off’ industries endemic in China (and other countries with weak IP protection) that are busy counterfeiting luxury branded products; if you can’t afford to buy the stylish exclusivity that LVL confers, then why not pretend with a knock-off LVL product.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that the experience for ordinary customers in LVL shops is poor. It is probably part and parcel of LVL’s implicit sales strategy; to discourage ordinary customers from entering the shop and mingling with their target customers (rich people who can really afford stylish exclusivity). Note that the experience for target customers in LVL shops is much better.

    It is helpful to draw a comparison between LVL’s luxury brand and Yves Saint Laurent’s YSL luxury brand in the 1980s. Up to the 1960s, YSL was a fashion icon. In the 1970s the declining number of customers who could afford YSL products lead to a commoditisation of fashion so that ordinary customers could buy YSL products. This led to indescriminate licensing such that by the 1980s, YSL had licensed over 200 other manufacturers to make and sell YSL products; everything from fashionable high-end clothing to utilitarian low-end shopping bags! Although initially highly profitable for YSL, the commoditisation of the YSL brand significantly diluted its stylish exclusivity and its ability to command a high price in the longer-term. YSL is no longer the brand it once was.

    You could argue that the challenge for LVL is to concentrate on developing a customer experience appropriate for their target customers (who may spend many thousands of dollars on LVL products in one visit), whilst not making it so bad that ordinary customers (who outnumber target customers but spent much less per visit at a mucher higher cost per sale) that they no longer aspire to buy LVL products at all.

    I suspect that if you plotted the Customer Experience Index scores for each touchpoint against target customer expectations for LVL’s target audience, then you would get a close match. Ditto with plotting the Customer Experience Index with the Brand Experience Index. These are the important curves for LVL, not the curves you plotted.

    As Graeme Green might have said, “All customers are equal, but some customers are more equal than others”.

    Graham Hill

  2. Sampson

    LVL is the the most profitable brand of the LVMH Group. Indeed, it is probably the most valuable brand in existence today. Its success is based upon a number of factors. In the foreground is the timeless, quality and style of LVL products combined with their exclusivity. In the middleground is continuous evolution in LVL designs that brings new products exclusively to LVL’s 350 shops in less than six months (in comparison with more than a year for the industry). In the background is a high quality, semi-automated, cellular manufacturing system in France (and Spain) that generates a 45% margin (in comparison with 25% for the industry).

    LVL is a success precisely because it is so exclusive. And customers are extremely loyal to the brand. Customers typically go on to own more than one product in the LVL range. But no LVL customer wants to spend US$1,000 on a Monogram Perfore bag only to find some ordinary office girl carrying the same bag on the street. So even though I agree with you that the customer base does expand as economies grow (a rising tide lifts all boats, particularly in Eastern Europe, China and South Korea) that doesn’t mean that medium-income customers then become the natural targets of LVL. Exclusivity has its price. It is in getting the balance right that has made LVL so successful.

    If you are still not convinced, just read what Yves Carcelle, the President of the Fashion and Leather Goods Business Group at LVMH has to say in the 2006 Annual Report.

    Graham Hill

  3. Graham

    Thanks for the prompt response.

    Actually, I’ve drawn the Emotion Curves of Louis Vuitton Retail Store — Rich&Famous Vs. Middle-Class.

    [img_assist|nid=1742|title=Emotion Curves of Louis Vuitton Retail Store—Rich&Famous (blue) Vs. Middle-Class (red)|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=640|height=480]

    So who are the target customers of Louis Vuitton? The top 1% and the super-rich were the targets of luxury-goods marketers. Today, luxury is defined broadly, it is becoming more of a “lifestyle” issue than merely owning the product, and the growing middle-class is buying more designer goods. “New luxury is not about aristocrats. It’s about average Joes on the street who want to buy premium-price products that have real technical, functional and emotional benefits”, said Michael Silverstein, co-author of “Trading Up”. The trading-up phenomenon explains why consumers shop at low-cost mass-merchandisers to save up enough monies to consume luxuries. To fuel the continuous-growth engine of a public-listed giant, Louis Vuitton could hardly narrow only to the limited rich & famous, and exclude the emerging middle-class, as her target segments.

    Sampson Lee
    [CEM Articles|Blog|Research|Certification]

  4. May this sad story serve as a case study in how NOT to treat one’s customers:

    I have been longing for a Louis Vuitton classic monogram handbag since the look began “growing” on me in the late 1980s. I was not exposed to the brand through conventional means since I grew up middle class and didn’t subscribe to fashion magazines as a young adult. My exposure to the Louis Vuitton brand came through a surge of counterfeits in the Los Angeles area. Ironically, the countefeiters served as a source of advertising for Louis Vuitton insofar as it became the basis for my desire to buy into the legitimate brand as an adult.

    Unfortunately, I did not have a quality customer service experience, and the situation I experienced was only complicated further by the fact that the bag I received came as a gift. Upon examining the speedy 25 I received just days ago, it became apparent within five minutes that the leather had begun to fray where one of the “rings” attaches a rolled-leather handle. Having worked part-time long ago as a student in a handbag and shoe sales and repair shop, I realized the problem would reduce the life of the product due to abnormal friction with the end result being an eventual splitting of the leather away from the handle (breakage). The defect in workmanship was also indirectly apparent insofar as the handles did not move freely because the leather to which the handle rings were attached did not provide sufficient clearance for the rings to swivel freely, as evidenced by the aforementioned observation that the leather enclosing one of the handle attachment rings was already beginning to chafe quite severely. The problem was evident enough that the Louis Vuitton sales associate who accepted the bag for exchange did not question the desire to do an exchange, and apologized profusely. Unfortunately, I was not present when the exchange was made. My significant other, who had purchased the bag for me, happened to be in the area for business that day, which is why I was unable to accompany him. My absence didn’t seem to be a big deal, but in retrospect it was a mistake, particularly in the view of store management. The second bag I received had more clearance by which to reduce the friction of the handle rings against the leather edging, and by which to make it easier to move the handles with less resistance. As a result, there was no signs of chafing or pealing along the dyed red leather edges as had been the observation with the first bag. Unfortunately, the replacement speedy had two completely different problems, which to my utter dismay constituted yet another defect. The leather piping along one side of the bag I had received in exchange was caught up in a seam. So instead of a tubular leather edge on which the bag could rest, the leather became eclipsed in canvas such that only a sliver of the piping on that corner was exposed. Just a centimeter or so away, I also noticed that the piping had a brown-black stain that would not brush away. This was no small stain, but roughly 1/4 inch in length. Since the untreated leather on a classic monogram LV is milky white when new, the stain stood out quite clearly. But more of a concern was the faulty way in which the piping was stiched into the seam such that the piping along that corner could no longer peform as a “foot” to protect the exposed canvas as intended. As a result, my significant other again returned to the LV boutique to exchange the bag, no short distance of travel, I might add.

    The response my fiancÉ received from not one but two employees, one of which claimed to be the “leathergoods manager”, was that no exchange would be provided even though we were still well within the 14-day return and exchange period disclosed at the initial point of sale. The staff insisted on returning the purchase even though my fiancÉ was eager to exchange the bag in hopes of putting the whole fiasco behind us as quickly as possible before the hassle of a protracted product problem spoiled the gift experience and the 20-year dream I had of owning an Louis Vuitton handbag. The manager on duty at the time did not dispute the defect with the bag, but nevertheless failed to appreciate my fiancÉ’s desire to quickly remedy the situation in hopes, as they say, that the third time would be the charm.

    Instead of an apology, the manager, as a fellow sales associate had done only moments earlier, explained to my fiancÉ and subsequently to me by telephone that Louis Vuitton bags are “handmade”, which came off as if to say that LVMH products are not subject to “quality control” the way most modern products are. While this argument may be quite acceptable while shopping at a fea market, I do not take this as a valid explanation for a brand that starts their handbag prices at just under $600! Worse, the manager went on to direct my fiancÉ and myself to make a FOURTH trip to the store so that I could choose from “among the hundreds” of speedy bags myself (never mind that it was a gift my fiancÉ wished to hand pick for me or that we have more pressing time commitments). When I pointed out that this newly invented condition of sale would require my significant other to leave the store he was presently standing in empty-handed while forcing him make a FOURTH 60-mile round trip, the manager did not yield. He echoed, as had a rude sales associate earlier, that the products may not be up to “our expectations”, and said that he would take the bag back, but not permit an exchange even though my fiancÉ was still within the exchange period. In response, I more or less replied that I found it “shocking” that the manager and his sales associate would essentially admit in a backhanded manner that Louis Vuitton products are frequently flaulty as implied by his certainty that he would not be able to help my fiancÉ select a bag that was free of defects without my presence!

    Clearly the manager viewed me as a “problem customer”. In truth, however, I do not have expectations for their products that are any higher than the products I might find in a discount department store. Indeeed, I have been happy with dozens of inexpensive purses over the years, some for as little as $15, and most no more than $40! I am not a wealthy individual but rather someone who has purchased only one other handbag over the past 20-some years that one might consider “designer”. And in all those years buying bargain store leathergoods, and even five years spent at a shoe and handbag sales and repair shop during college, I have only purchased what I would consider a defective brand-new handbag twice. Yet by horrible coincidence in just two trips to Louis Vuitton’s boutique, my significant other has walked out the door not once but twice with a product that has undisputed craftsmanship issues. Instead of an apology, the employees begin to hang out LVMH’s dirty laundry: namely, that their products are unlikely to measure up to our (Wal-mart quality) expectations, and that it will require me to personally look through “hundreds” of bags to find one that is not flawed! Either they think very poorly of their products, which should be grounds for management to fire such employees, or they have concluded that a customer who has had nothing but undeserved bad luck is a “nitpicker” who will not be happy with anything they have to offer. If that is the case, why is it that nobody working in the store who was aware of the situation disagreed that there were problems with the product? They saw the fraying. They saw the stain. They saw the malformed seam that engulfed the leather piping that was supposed to be exposed in order to serve as a protective edge around the canvas!

    The issue was not that the problems were imagined or exaggerated, but that there might be SO MANY problems on SO MANY LV products that the only way to be satisfied was to chose a bag from among “hundreds”.

    If one test drives a BMW he or she is unlikely to be satisfied with a engine that runs and sounds like an econobox. Likewise, if a customer shops for a Louis Vuitton they are unlikely to appreciate a hefty price tag on a product that is no better made than its fake Chinese counterparts!

    Moral to the story?

    1. The customer isn’t always right.
    2. Consumers should not expect to get what they pay for.

    So much for the luxury goods mystic, and the LVMH brand in particular.

    If I were a Louis Vuitton executive, I wouldn't train my sales associates to argue with patrons, or to make any excuses whatsoever. I spent nearly 15 years in retail, all with high customer service marks on my annual reviews. In fact, I even won an award for my commitment to service while in college. I know firsthand that it is the job of a sales associate to make the situation right when there is a problem, and not to argue with a customer who is still within the return and exchange window a customer is promised. It is NOT for a sales associate to erect arbitrary sales requirements and to make business conditional on patrons' willingness to jump through their hoops.

    If I worked for LVMH I would remind my employees that “the customer is always right”, and that they are to be treated as if they are right even if the employee does not see eye to eye with the client. Sales associates are not paid to express their opinions of the customers or their personalities, but to generate sales. Business 101 dictates that you don’t generate repeat sales by carelessly leaving poor impressions on new or existing customers who have been the victim of circumstances and problems beyond their control. For this reason, LVMH should put their foot down where headstrong employees are concerned. These low-level employees are essentially a form of LVMH advertising, and as advertisers for the brand their behavior should be professional and courteous at all times. In particular, sales associates should not be given free reign to chase off business in situations that present an opportunity to please patrons by simply honoring existing store policy.

    Would it have been ideal if I were present the first time the exchange was performed to pick out the replacement bag? Certainly. Is it the place of an employee to dictate to the victim of misfortune under what circumstances they will honor their exchange policy even as the customer remains well within the 14-day return or exchange period initially disclosed? No. If Louis Vuitton boutique policy is such that customers are informed that they have a 14-day exchange or return period at the POS, then it would follow that their employees have no business within that period dictating that the product will be confiscated rather than exchanged. Argumentative employees, right or wrong in their rationale, do not earn the company money, and do not leave customers with positive shopping experiences. To arbitrarily alter the rules of the transaction unless, of course, the customer agrees to jump through additional and formerly undisclosed condition-of-sale hoops — e.g. to make yet another 60-mile round trip with gift recipient in tow — is not a store policy requirement but a personal power play exercised by a store manager who would rather throw his weight around than provide an accommodating, professional, no-hassle sales environment. If LVMH wants to discourage counterfeiting, they need to provide better customer service — and better products — than the counterfeiters do. As it stands, however, LVMH fails to deliver consistent products and consistent service on both counts.

  5. [quote=graham_hill]Sampson

    Another very interesting, well researched and challenging post.

    Louis Vuitton’s LVL brand is a luxury brand. It is intended to appeal to those who value fine craftmanship, tradition, style and above all, exclusivity. It goes without saying that they must be relatively affluent to afford LVL products in the first place. This creates a huge incentive for ‘ordinary customers’ who want to be seen as stylishly exclusive but can’t really afford LVL products. Hence the large ‘knock-off’ industries endemic in China (and other countries with weak IP protection) that are busy counterfeiting luxury branded products; if you can’t afford to buy the stylish exclusivity that LVL confers, then why not pretend with a knock-off LVL product.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that the experience for ordinary customers in LVL shops is poor. It is probably part and parcel of LVL’s implicit sales strategy; to discourage ordinary customers from entering the shop and mingling with their target customers (rich people who can really afford stylish exclusivity). Note that the experience for target customers in LVL shops is much better.


    As Graeme Green might have said, “All customers are equal, but some customers are more equal than others”.

    Graham Hill[/quote]

    If your theory of a two-tiered Louis Vuitton boutique customer service system is correct, it might also follow that my experience with two defective Louis Vuitton handbags in a row may not be the coincidences they first appeared. Perhaps, and this is just speculation on my part, the LV boutique stock rooms are filled with GRADE A merchandise (for the wealthy target customer) and GRADE B products for the middle class (non-wealthy, non-target customer). Consider: Better that the wealthy assume that the poorly crafted bag a middle class person carries is a fake, than to see that someone of such low financial stature has an authentic bag that can compete in quality with their own. If true, LVMH has solved the perceptual problem of exclusivity by intentionally selling what their “desirable customers” will perceive gray-market merchandise to less affluent boutique shoppers by which to dissociate their brand. This, in turn, may drive exaggerated assumptions on the part of LVMH’s target market that most LV products middle class consumers sport are no more than knockoffs (due to the presence of “unheard of” defects in workmanship). This would also explain my observation that many young adults in the purse forums and blogs on the Internet complain that people snicker at their Louis Vuitton handbags on the false assumption that they are fake. If they are being sold second-rate merchandise, this would be an expected assumption on the part of LVMH patrons who are more affluent.

    One must pause to consider why problems with counterfeits are so numerous for the Louis Vuitton brand in comparison to other luxury goods manufacturers who seem to do a better job discouraging knockoffs (through product registration, valid serial numbers instead of useless date codes, hologram identification technology and other modern or practical methods LVMH has yet to introduce in their products for less than seemingly logical reasons). Perhaps LVMH imagines that they are protecting their wealthy customers by taking so few proactive steps to prevent counterfeits. After all, current perception holds that roughly 98 percent of the LV-carrying public doesn’t have the means to afford the real thing. This, in turn, may prove useful to the wealthy who wish to keep their perceptions of superiority via the assumption that everyone but themselves is carrying a “fake”. If LVMH passes off their “irregular merchandise” to customers who do not fit their target market, it only perpetuates the impression that those who carry the brand, even if it is indeed “legit”, are tastelessly passing off a counterfeits.

    My theory may contradict prevailing wisdom, but why else would a company resist even the most basic of checks-and-balances, such as serial-code registration as practiced by companies as diverse as Dooney & Bourke, by auto makers (using VIN numbers) and certified diamond sellers (via laser inscriptions matching a corresponding GIA, EGL or IGI database entry)? It would seem all to obvious that for whatever warped reason, LVMH has a stake in NOT trying too hard.

  6. I am writing to say that my saga with Louis Vuitton continues. I picked up my FOURTH exchange today, only to realize upon returning home that the speedy 25 I received had an incorrect speedy “30” imprint under the leather tab (something I failed to look at while in the store). While this is certainly a novelty, I expect the manufacturing flaw will devalue it on the resale market. Currently, vintage speedy bags can sell for as much as $300 or more on eBay. There are also services, such as MyPoupette.com, which claim to authenticate these secondary market designer products using photos that are provided by sellers. While I have no long-term plans to own an LV bag and resale it, having a tab marked with the wrong model number will undoubtedly raise questions as to its authenticity. It will also, potentially, prevent me from obtaining LV-authorized repairs at a later date if authenticity is called into question by boutique staff that has not encountered such fluke and is unwilling to believe that an authentic product would be wrongly marked.

    It would be expected that a knockoff might be the wrong size or contain the wrong descriptive text due to counterfeiters’ inattention to detail, but it would not be expected of a genuine Louis Vuitton handbag. Even the sales associate commented that it is too bad it were not a baseball card, in which case a goof might increase its value. Sadly, my “first impression” of Louis Vuitton is that their products are not up to their own hype. On the other hand, this whole experience has created a sort of “mission impossible” challenge, one which I continue to hope will have a happy ending (despite all evidence to the contrary).

    Meanwhile, I have learned that Louis Vuitton boutique management are not empowered to remedy such situations with anything more than a verbal apology. They do not discount products even as little as three percent, nor provide complimentary or VIP products or services of any kind — not even to customers who have been through extenuatingly poor circumstances. By contrast, most low-end retail managers are empowered to provide an incentive for disenchanted customers to “forgive and forget”. My impression, therefore, is that LVMH does not, apparently, place an emphasis on post-sale customer relations — ostensibly because the company does not acknowledge that problems of a quality control or experiential nature exist in the first place. Perhaps part of providing a quality customer experience is not in denying one’s corporate or manufacturing fallibility, but in foreseeing it long before it leaves one’s customers “high and dry” without a store-level management philosophy in place by which to remediate grossly unsatisfactory shopping/product experiences on the part of customers.

    LVMH may be a luxury empire, but they do not impart a luxury experience in view of my own experiences.

  7. The only LV store that I have ever been treated like an appreciated customer was in their Maui store. The sales clerk even gave me her card when I let her know this, and said she would be happy to ship anything to me with a phone call. I try to shop online rather than go in their stores, as they do typically treat you like dirt. Anymore, I buy other brands such as Dior or Gucci, as you get better service. The LV store in Beverly Hills, on a typical day, has about 15 people working behind the counters, and none of them will wait on you until you ask for help. The key is to dress in jeans, a t-shirt, baseball cap and sunglasses, and then you will get great service. The one time it pays to dress down! Assuming they all work on commission, who cares where the money comes from? In Los Angeles, there are enough super-wealthy people that they don’t have to care about the rest of us. It truly is a shame.

  8. Reading the comments from disgruntled multiple-purchase LVL shoppers makes you wonder when perceived bad service becomes part of the shopping experience itself. A bit like climbing shopping Mount Everest. At least you get to take away a nice bag (to add to all your other bags!) as reward for the pain of climbing the highest shopping peak.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  9. I would like to share an unpleasant experience shopping at LV in Singapore.

    I was happily browsing the catalogue when the sales lady interrupted me to say that the catalogue is for internal sales referencing. I then check with another salesperson and he said that the catalogues are for customer browsing. I was then able to look at the catalogues at another counter.

    I would wrote to LV to ask first of all if LV’s policy is to allow customers to browse their in-store catalogues. If so, I would then like to ask if Pearlyn (the sales lady) is selecting customers to serve and giving unequal treatments to certain customers.

    They replied promptly with a cookie cutter reply as follows:

    Dear Sir,

    We acknowledge receipt of your email dated 5 August 2007 in which you expressed your dissatisfaction with regard to the quality of service you received in our store.

    Thank you for your comments. Indeed, we attach great importance to your remarks, and we strive to take account of every one of them so we can offer you an excellent level of service, in line with your expectations.

    We pay particular attention to provide all our customers with the best service possible.

    We are very sorry that this was not the case when you visited our store and we would like to take this opportunity to apologize. We are now ensuring that steps are taken so that such an incident does not occur in the future.

    Thank you for your continued loyalty to Louis Vuitton. We hope to have the pleasure of your custom again very soon in our store.

    Yours sincerely,

    Customer Service Centre
    Louis Vuitton Asia-Pacific

    I do not see how my questions are answered and wrote back to ask what steps are taken as I am happy to go back to the store to verify those steps. With such customer service centre, no wonder the retail service sucks! But I am not giving up till I get a reply.

    Any advice appreciated.

  10. An Unhappy LV Customer

    Sorry to hear about your bad LV service experience. However, as compared to the treatment I got from Sheraton Towers Singapore, you might think “Ah, at least I get a reply!” As a matter of fact, many companies may under-estimate the power of a “complaint experience” – they can be a disaster or they can be the best possible window to turn your customer into a happy and loyal one.

    Sampson

  11. I have always had good service at the LV store in Tampa. They are always very helpful. I can see how they could become jaded after waiting on countless “wannabes” daily that have no intention of buying anything.

  12. Shane,

    I do not see why you would defend socially inept behavior on the part of Louis Vuitton sales associates. It’s not an exclusive, luxury image that obstinate behavior projects, but rather an uncouth impression that careless sales associates are indelibly imparting on the Louis Vuitton brand (worldwide, I might add).

    It is important to acknowledge, also, that very few “wannabes”, as you call LV patrons, would pain themselves to air a complaint on a site such as this if they had no further intention than to window shop. People who are angered by poor treatment are legitimate patrons; all others will chalk it up to “snobbery” and go on with their day. To go so far as to locate a discussion on this topic suggests a very deep sense of betrayal, to the contrary.

    Assuming that LV boutique sales associates perceive most of their potential customers as little more than wannabes as you claim, such sales associates should be cognizant that would-be clients are sizing up their professionalism and attentiveness to customer needs — and when not satisfied will take their business elsewhere at the expense of the very company that cuts the offending employee’s paycheck. Highbrow or not, at the end of the day we are talking about a business, after all, and it is the goal of any competent business to generate sales (more, not fewer).

    One does not generate maximum revenues with minimum service.

    Any Louis Vuitton employee who deludes themselves into believing that they can judge the proverbial book by the cover is a revenue-killing liability. Art galleries and other such venues where truly high-value transactions are conducted have long known that some of the best customers shop with the least pretension and vice versa. Consequently, if LVMH is training their employees to typecast patrons as they walk in the door, they are operating their business under a fundamentally flawed philosophy. (If LVMH training practices are going to encourage wishful thinking, they might as well hire palm readers.)

    In my experience, there are two kinds of SAs who apparently work for Louis Vuitton: polite, loyal and mature individuals who are trying to make up for their rude, gossipy coworkers (the minority since such an environment would inevitably be quite hostile to those employees who do not conform to the prevailing norms, however dysfunctional they may be), and inexperienced, headstrong, immature and insecure types who enjoy the liberty LVMH affords to ignore *normal* social conventions and store policies just for the sake of throwing their weight around whenever a customer is perceived as “deserving” of intimidation or the cold shoulder. Naturally, such behavior on the part of an employee would not be tolerated in any other retail environment, so my guess is that LVMH is probably taking on new hires who either have had no prior retail experience, or have been let go from other service positions because their ability to hold their attitudes in check is, shall we say, “impaired”.

    From a shopper’s vantage point, the thing to remember here is that most of these SAs, at least the ones I’ve encountered, are college-age adults whom I am guessing are working for LVMH for one of three reasons: 1) because it is trendy, 2) because they want an employee discount in order to afford their personal LV obsession, or 3) to earn more than they can earn working at the likes of Wal-Mart. There’s nothing wrong with any of those reasons, mind you, but from a customer perspective it is helpful to remember that the SAs who are moving on to bigger and better things in life are not going to be stakeholders in improving Louis Vuitton brand image or customer experience. Like any other form of retail, many of these employees are earning a comparatively low salary in relation to most of the people who shop in their establishment. As such, patrons should not cave to snooty intimidation tactics.

    Bottom line? LVMH executives and marketers must come to the realization that there’s always room to improve brand image. One cannot escape the irony that while millions of dollars are expended on fashion industry presence and magazine advertising campaigns, LVMH executives and marketers have all but neglected to carry through their efforts to the boutique level. Sales associates, in the end, have the ability to make or break customer impressions and brand expectations. Therefore, no amount of advertising dollars is well spent when, at the store level, employees are given free reign to detract from LVMH’s carefully crafted luxury image. To remedy the apparent lack of continuity, LVMH executives should overhaul their hiring and employee training practices to bring them in line with the luxury image they project beyond the confines of the boutique doors.

  13. I am glad that someone had at least pointed out that there are two types of SA’s in the LV shops, but perhaps everyone is forgetting that those to classifications exist in every single luxury store. It’s extremely difficult to control a person’s nature and finding good natured, polite and professional associates is a task akin to finding a needle in a haystack. However, it’s not too hard to find a polite or even friendly associate at LV. You just have to try your hand at some other associates to find someone who suits you. I find that I usually deal with a few people in any store before I settle on that one great sales associate.

    Ideally, you should be able to receive quality service upon entry of any store, but in reality, it is not always the case. When I do receive nasty treatment, and I have seen quite a few in my day, I take it upon myself to notify their direct supervisor that this level of service is absolutely unacceptable. Never would ANY luxury retailer allow their sales associates to be disrespectful. The associates just think they can get away with it because so few people will actually complain. The main problem is that a lot of people expect to be treated with mild disdain or indifference when walking into a high end store, and actually allow that kind of behavior to go by without comment since it was already expected.

    My personal experience with LV has been wonderful, though I have to admit there has been some managers I could do without. They DO have a customer service hotline in which you can call if you do not find a solution in a standing boutique. (1-866-Vuitton) Also, the bags I have purchased over the years have always been of superior quality. I actually have a bag that is 32 years old, and it still looks great. That’s pretty exceptional for a handbag. I’ve had mixed receptions at different LV stores, but I have always found the 5th Ave Flagship to have wonderful associates. 8 out 10 times I walk into that store, I am greeted and approached in a polite and professional manner. Whether I show up in jeans and flip flops or in a Chanel suit, I’m treated the same each time. It’s pretty consistent there and at the 34th Street store in Macy’s, believe it or not. Perhaps the problem might just be that smaller stores may not have strict management or quality training available in a store like the one on 5th ave?

    I remember on one occasion, my associate was about to sell me a bag, saw a brown thumbprint on the leather handle and immediately got another one before I bought it. I asked her what was going to happen to the bag, and she said it would be sent back to the workshop to have the handle replaced. She informed e that they actually cannot sell defective or damaged goods. (I have used this argument twice when I did find two of my bags to have a defect in the manufacturing.) The associate I had helping me just happened to be sharp eyed and checked the condition over before I did. THAT is great service! I understand that these bags that are handmade, and that means there are variations and possibilities of human error, not that they are not subject to quality control. It’s nice to know my associate was aware as well and took the initiative to look it over, which I prefer my sale people do. I always take into consideration that they show the same bag to numerous people in a day and all it takes is one person with dirty hands to render a bag “Damaged”.

    I have encountered defective bags before, such as a stuck zipper pull or a frayed stitch, but I have never had a problem switching the bags out for news ones or repairing it if they could, if I had it for less than a year. Anything over a year old, they do try to fix any problems I have, but there is usually a fee. Now, some places won’t even offer to fix your handbag in the even something happens to it! I’ve had problems at Prada before, and that’s why I don’t buy there anymore. At LV, at least they’ll try! The fees are not too bad. I had replaced my handles on my old Speedy for about $80 a while ago and I had purchased the bag originally for something like $500. I think that’s fair for band new handles! They even oxidized the leather for me to the color of my old leather around the bag. I even had the piping replaced on one point, and it’s actually a decorative piping. Some of their bags of similar design do not have any of that piping, and the leather’s more fragile that the coated canvas that surrounds it. The canvas is incredibly durable, though my speedy is finally losing the battle against the efforts of time.

    Furthermore, the reason why there are no serialized codes or certificates with the bags are because LV does not encourage resale of their items. Period. Remember, these are fashion items, not diamonds or paintings that increase in value over time. The only numbers stamped in the bag is the manufacturing date of the bag itself so that a specialist can check the date to see if the warranty is still valid. (One year warranty against manufacturing defects.) Adding certificates, codes and the like would mean acknowledging that the counterfeits challenge the real deal. I believe it’s a matter of pride for the Louis Vuitton name and truly, I support it. I buy these bags for myself, not to make a profit. It’s a handbag for crying out loud.

    If someone wanted to profit off a handbag, then they could purchase the Limited Edition pieces straight from the runway and sell it on Ebay. Now I most certainly do not support the idea of someone grabbing a ultra rare handbag to sell for double the price after it’s sold out. It’s like someone waiting in a line to buy the PS3 to sell on ebay for a mass profit, ultimately taking a spot away from someone who legitimately just wants the console for their own personal use but must now pay $1000-2000 on ebay for it cause they are all sold out. It’s called greed. For that reason alone, I applaud Louis Vuitton for NOT giving in and slapping on serial codes or authenticity records, which by the way, are EASIER to counterfeit. Want to know if it’s real or not? Go to a LV boutique and have it authenticated.

    I am also equally glad that they have no sales or discounts. I believe they may be the only fashion retailer that does not have sales and from my experience, they don’t carry mass stock. They sell out of certain styles pretty often, so I suspect. being handmade that they cannot produce the mass quantities that would encourage a sale to get rid of overstock.

    I have to say, it doesn’t matter what kind of service I get at LV. In the end, I go there to buy handbags because I trust Louis Vuitton’s quality and after sales services. Sales service is ALWAYS volatile no matter where you go. I even understand the strife the associates go through also on a daily basis just to earn a living. I mean, I overhear the conversations people get into when I visit some stores and I stand amazed. I was at a Gucci shop and some moron asked if the credit card slot of the wallet would fit his Amex card. He then proceeded to ask if it would fit the American Dollar. I have NEVER heard of a wallet that couldn’t fit a credit card or a dollar. Even the ones in Singapore fit CCs and paper currencies from all over the world. If I had to deal with that on a daily basis, I would be at BEST indifferent to the crush of customers that must stream through their doors everyday. I can only imagine what they have to deal with! With such high end product, they must attract some high end jackasses too…

  14. I am concerned that the understanding about peak-end rule put forward by Sampson might be faulty. There might be a point he has to make, but to my knowledge the experiences Sampson is mentioning are combine positive and negative feeling. Peak-end rule has been tested mainly with aversive experiences like pain, annoyance, money payments. There are also some with positive experiences. But I am not aware of a study that combines these two and tests for peak-end prediction power in global evaluations. See for example Kahneman 2000 (Choices, values and frames) page 702.
    Moreover, the theory does not say that people “only could” remember peak and end. It says people anchor on these two points more in experiments where subjects were passive during their experience. So I recommend being careful in using this rule in a careless way.

  15. You are correct LV renders poor services at the store and poor customer after care. I bought one of their new bag products lats year may 2008. In less than a year, the thread of the bag started to come off. I took this to the store and the sales consultant who attended to me, completed a repair form stating the bag had worn out. I insisted that she changed it as that was the wrong judgement. The bag was faulty, i mean i paid 580pounds for this bag and it was less than a year. Ignoring me, the sales attendant told me i will be contacted. A few weeks later, I got a comment from the store in the UK that my bag had been assessed at the repair centre and they were not taking liability for it because i put the bag on the floor hence the wear and tear. There was a hole in the bag as a result of the losse threading.

    I was furious i called the customer services department and was advised that the manager at the store will ring me. True to them, he rang me but ofcourse without looking at the bag; he argued that i had put my bag on the floor. After arguing with him and insisting he went back to look at the bag because from his comments i did not need to be told that he had not taken a look at the bag, he agreed to call me back after he had seen the bag. 45mins later he calls me singing a new song!!!1 He admitted that he should have looked at the bag and clearly indicated that one part of the leather at the joining was short!!!…I wasn’t the least surprised. The bag was very newly produced and it had no quality proven history yet, which I had clearly stated when I reported the issue. I mean that style and bag type (BELLEVUE) was only 4-6months old!!! All I wanted was to have my bag fixed. But from all indications it seems the repair will cost a fortune and a big quality issue had been detected and so they would prefer to put the blame o me the customer!!! Anyway this manager told me he will send it back t the repairers but there say was still final. As you would expect egocentric people, the judgement of the repairers did not change. I was then told to contact the customer services department if I wanted to lodge a complaint!….I was told that their independent legal (false if you ask me) adviser will look into the issue. At this time it was already 4 to 5weeks wait.

    I sent this email but got no response until another 5weeks. Yes it was 10weeks and i still had not heard from LV. I sent an email to them expressing my disappointment. Then 2weeks later i get an email from their so called legal adviser ‘Allisson Currier’. She had the nerve to tell me she was not aware of my complaint until the time she responded. From her email it was obvious she had not even looked at the bag talkless of try and independently resolve the issue ( This I came to confirm when i was told that my bag was still at the Selfridges store since it was first returned). Her email said that she was sorry for the delay but the judgement of the repairer still stands. To top it up, she ended the email by stating

    ”I am sorry for any dissappoint this causes, but trust this letter clarifies Louis Vuitton’s position in this matter satisfactorily”

    Well this letter was dated 13th August, I responded and spoke to many people who tossed me back and forth. No one at the customer services department was interested in speaking to me. It seemed like they had put a big note on my account, DO NOT ENTERTAIN THIS CUSTOMER!!!…Anyway they got the manager of the store i originally bought the bag from to call me. This time it was a lady, she apologised for the treatment i had received so far and told me she will be in contact with me in 4days after she had sent the issue to France (it was always been dealt with in London) but until now 27th August I have had no response!!

  16. I certainly will never shop with any Louis Vuitton again. While pleasant during the shopping/purchase time, they were pathetic when it came to returns for ill made merchandise. We had a belt that broke within the time period for return. They replaced it with another belt. The 2nd belt broke when putting it on the first time. They had no belts for exchange, nor do I want a $420 belt with a 2x losing track record. The manager first offered to superglue the piece inhouse, then offered to send it for repair. I informed her I was within the guidelines for return and she said the belt wasnt “saleable” and therefore couldnt be returned. I did research and learned this is happening everywhere, worn or not.

  17. As a former LVMH Fashion Group Americas employee, I can tell you that you are crazy! You are the worst customer any retail person could encounter.

    Do you not understand the added appeal to hand-finished luxury goods? Sometimes there are slight imperfections; this is desirable as it shows how much care and attention went into the development and production of your handbag. In simple terms, the bags are imperfect because they are not made on a machine! It’s really not that difficult of a concept to understand.

    And in my personal opinion, the staff serviced you and your “significant other” exceptionally well. Gucci would have laughed in your face with your ridiculous complaints, and then pushed you aside so they could sell some logo cotton canvas handbag to a cash-paying customer who they would never see again.

    Enjoy Wal-Mart and let me know how their customer service is.

  18. It’s interesting to note that some articles have recently reported a trend away from LV among consumers in some of China’s first tier cities.

    As consumers in Tier 2 and 3 cities (and 4…) become more moneyed they are attracted to well known brands such as LV for the usual reasons. This has an effect on some discerning consumers in Tier 1 (and 2) cities who now avoid some of the more ‘ostentatious’ (and ‘obvious’) brands such as LV – afterall they don’t want to be taken for people from more local cities!

    This would seem to be in line with what you’d expect as the market (and such a huge and varied market) matures like any other.

    Ed Dean http://www.jett-asia.com

  19. i never thought there would be so many people unhappy with the service that was provided. have the previous incidents been resolved? and have there been anymore incidents? please post

  20. Me and my husband had a horibble experience returning a Louis Vuitton Bag. It was a Christmas Present and the day after Christmas we went into the store to return this un-used bag and was accussed of using it. It was ridiculous. They inspected the bag with a fine tooth comb I have never seen anything like it. They said it had a microscopic spot on the leather and was refusing to return it. My husband had to argue with the sales women. Louis Vuitton should take lessons from Nordstroms. What sad is my husband bought the display model it was the last one so people touching it is what put a microscopic spot that you could barely see. The manager refused to let us exchange it. Finally after being humiliated the manager then said ok she would do it. If you ever buy one of these bags you must walk on eggshells around it if you decide to try and return it and good luck.

  21. LV is notorious for haughty service anywhere. In terms of exclusivity, they are actually the “mass luxury” brand — the lower cheaper end of the luxury ladder. Same thing goes for Cartier in the Richemont Group, although these are both the money makers because they are precisely more affordable.

    And for the fact that you have to tell a paying customer to “go to Walmart” shows the sort of class and unsuitable training that is evident by numerous support in many forums. I never understood what is the true purpose for this. Realize that people are PAYING customers and your base salary as a sales staff would not put you in the range to buy your own product.

  22. I am utterly surprised at the bad experiences you’ve had at the LV shops. Personally I work as a saleswoman in the LV in Denmark, here we strive to give each individual a superb experience. More than once I have received thanks for a good service. From paying customers!

  23. I will never again buy LV products and here is why!

    Ordered Thursday from live person at Luis Vuitton to avoid counterfeit long story short I was promised I would have bag before Saturday for my wife’s birthday needless to say the bag won’t arrive till Monday! I could have drove an hour to store to buy in person which I told the online rep she obviously wanted the commission so she lied to me and ruined my wife’s surprise! For a $2000 handbag one would think customer service would work for me and allow me to pay ups to upgrade to Saturday delivery… Well nope LOUIS Vuitton customer service basically said FU! I will never buy another product from this company again! I would rather spend more money on a real handmade artisan product anyway! I have spent over $20k this year on this brand for friends, family and office gifts when I told them this the customer support still did not care. All they needed to do was call ups and authorize me to pay for Saturday delivery so I could drive to ups location and pick up the bag sitting in the warehouse waiting to be delivered Monday morning and they denied me of this service!!! Absolutely not the white glove experience I expected from a “premium” brand!

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