Exquisite service is about doing, not saying

Jul 31st, 2023

I was delighted to write an article for PrimeResi that looked at the importance of providing exquisite service to customers and clients, with tips on how to ensure you deliver a memorable service. The article below was published in its journal on 28 July 2023…

When was the last time the service you received from someone was so exceptional it stuck in your mind? Maybe it was in a restaurant, a hotel or in a shop. The provision of exceptional service is something the luxury property sector prides itself on, but how many really get it right? (writes Oona Collins)

A recent study from Savills highlights the strong demand so far in 2023 for super-prime new build schemes such as The OWO, Chelsea Barracks and The Whitely, as high-net-worth buyers look to get hold of ‘best in class’ homes that offer unrivalled luxuries and facilities. When buyers are comparing such premium products there is often little between the offering, other than the service they get from the developers or agents.

So as leaders, how can we instil the provision of exquisite service as one of our non-negotiable company cultures?

Here I look at seven ways to deliver the exquisite service that clients and customers demand…


1: Relationships versus transactions
We want long term relationships with our clients not one-off transactions. Giving clients the gift of time and attention is valuable and is often all that people want from you and your team as it is so rarely given in this ‘always on’ environment.

Relationships with your team and your supply chain are just as important as those with your clients. The service they give you is going to be reflected in the service they will give your clients. Do they share your values? Will they demonstrate your brand quality? Your clients and customers are often time poor so they place a value on having people do the research and accessing the best product, designer or crafts person to meet their needs and lifestyle. For many developers and agents this means having the expertise immediately available, whether that is for sourcing statement artwork, remodelling spaces or building bespoke furniture. These masters of their craft will become valuable collaborators and part of your team so those relationships are important.

Technology has a role to play in maintaining relationships with our clients. A CEO in the luxury property sector recently spoke about using ChatGBT when writing to clients in different countries to make sure his message is personal and culturally appropriate to build rapport.


2: Keep one step ahead & ask for feedback
A client that I have always respected, has always been at the forefront of creativity in his sector, which has helped his property consultancy become the market leader in their area. He and his partner recognise the importance of keeping one step ahead in terms of technology and service to retain their reputation and market share. He was shocked recently when a client informed him that a competitor had a better video product for selling properties. This made him realise they had taken their eye off innovation.

When you are the market leader there is no time for complacency as there are always others trying to overtake you. The feedback pushed him to invest in the latest technology – and despite being disappointed he was grateful for this feedback and made a commitment to keep on checking with clients for their feedback by asking simple questions such as…

What is one thing we are not doing that would make the biggest difference to you?


3: Anticipate what clients will want and need
Giving a client what they want before they have to ask for it sends the message that you care about the person as an individual. Get to know each client and understand what they care about and anticipate what would add most value to them and deliver this.

I recall a property agent in Sicily who had a small family business who went to great lengths to get to know her clients. On one occasion she greeted a couple who flew from London to view homes in Noto, an area they did not know. As she helped them through the process of choosing the right property, at the end of their stay she invited them to her home for dinner where she invited a diverse group of local people so she could introduce them so they could start to build their own social network. This meant a great deal to them. She had predicted what they would most need and went above and beyond to provide this.


4: Make everything personal
The word luxury is not just about products it is about the level of listening you give each person so they feel they matter – and when this level of service comes from the heart – you can feel how much people care.

I recently ran a leadership programme in Bermuda and the team at the hotel I stayed in was memorable. I was only there for a few days, but when I checked out, I was struck by how much the staff had listened to me during passing comments I had made to them in our conversations. Their final note on departure was so personal and included many details about my husband and I’s pending trip to Venice. So simple but it made a difference to me. Earlier I had a conversation with the owners’ son who drove their complimentary car service. I commented on how delightful their team was and he said “a happy team leads to a successful business”. He emphasised how important tourism was to Bermuda so the service they give has to be exceptional so people returned …. and I will. Even the Bermudian authorities asked for my feedback when I returned to make sure they continue to make all visitors feel welcome. It seems part of their DNA.

It was heartening to hear from the CEO of a luxury developer and operator of prime central London serviced apartments, where he explained the level of detail they store about their regular clients’ preferences, so that when they arrive for a stay, they have their favourite toiletries in the bathrooms and favourite supplies in the kitchen down to their favourite linen in their bedding. This makes them feel they are coming ‘home’.


5: Set the right culture
Delivering great service has to start from the culture set within your business.

If your team feels valued as individuals and understood, this will be reflected in them taking the same approach with your clients. It goes back to the Bermudian Hotel’s belief of ‘a happy team makes a successful business’.

Reward and encourage collaboration across your team and divisions within the business so that they want to share information that will be of benefit to clients, rather than keep it to themselves to give them a competitive advantage over their colleagues.

I often go to restaurants that are part of a group and I notice that every restaurant provides a different level of service. This is down to the manager.

As a leader in your team, what are the non-negotiable service standards that you set that everyone knows is key to your success, so that the service is consistent across your business?


6: Become the trusted advisor
Many of my clients will say that they want to be their clients’ trusted advisor. It takes time to earn that role. Those that do cultivate business relationships for the long term, have exceptional knowledge, continue to learn, and know their clients inside out.

When you have the relationship of a trusted adviser – you know. The credibility and trust you have built allows for a more equal relationship of partnership vs service provider. This allows them as advisers to challenge their clients respectfully based on their commitment to always add value. Clients appreciate this and value their advice as a sounding board on a broad range of issues outside of their core discipline.


7: Measure yourself against the best
Don’t just compare yourself to direct competitors, clients are comparing you to everyone who provides them with a service.

Benchmark yourself against best practices found from a variety of service-focussed industries, because that’s what your clients will do. Each interaction they have with you is judged based on the expectations set by the service they receive in the best hotels, shops and restaurants, as well as from those managing other aspects of their lives.

A recent study by Knight Frank found that almost 40% of international buyers would be willing to pay a premium for a branded residence and the concierge services they offer. The OWO residences at Raffles is a good example of this.

Almost every luxury property agency, developer and investment managers’ websites talk about the high level of service provided to clients.

Do you consider your service to be the best in class consistently? And if not, what would it take for you to feel confident that you are remembered by your clients so they recommend you to their friends and family?


Find Out More

If you would like to talk more about creating a culture of exquisite service within your team and business, please do get in touch at team@potentialplus-int.com.