Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fabergé Fantastique

This is not a blog post about comics or mermaids or any of our usual themes; instead I want to share with you an experience I had that epitomised the ideal of exceptional customer service. 

Last week I took the day off work to escort my distant Austrian relative Sigrid around Sydney. We had started our day at Paddy's Market and a yum cha in Chinatown (love those steamed prawn dumplings!), walked up George Street to the mid-city centre then up through the Botanic Gardens to the Opera House and then walked back up to Martin Place through the chic and exclusive part of town where the Chanels, Tiffanys, and Bulgaris cluster. As we were passing the Fabergé shop, something caught my eye in the entrance – a gorgeous tutu. Being a long term classical ballet lover, being of Russian descent, and having a historical and artistic appreciation for Fabergé jewelled eggs, I decided to stop and have a look inside. Sigrid was quite bedazzled too and quite happy to follow. 

Now, at this stage, I must set the scene by mentioning that we were dressed like typical tourists in pants, comfortable shoes and big bags slung around our shoulders. We had walked about 10km by this time so we were a little rumpled and hot, and our fingers were slightly sticky from a gelato we had eaten on the Quay and from having shaken the hands and kissed the cheek of a flirty, blue-eyed bloke from Manchester. 

Inside the shop we examined the tutu and were soon approached by a smiling young man dressed impeccably in a stylish suit. He greeted us warmly and then started talking to us about the tutu, the new range of dainty eggs he had just received, which he prised open to show us their secret contents. All the while, he talked to us about the things we admired in the shop – whether they had a price tag attached to them or not. He told us about the opening to the shop in 2007 and gave us a promotional DVD (I have sourced an edited clip of this from the Internet to show you below). I am an observer of human behaviour and during the entire exchange, I saw no evidence of him judging us by our attire or our scruffiness. Instead, he treated us with great friendliness and with dignity and respect. He did not presuppose that our clothes reflected the size of our wallets and he was a sheer joy to engage with. 

Why does this kind of service stand out? Well, after I graduated high school and before going to university I worked as a company cadet for the Grace Brothers (which later was rebranded Myers) chain of department stores, in a fast-tracked management program. I was good at the job but emotionally and temperamentally unsuited for it because all I wanted to do was write, but I gained a lot of knowledge from the training, especially about customer service. One of the first lessons we were taught was never to judge people by their clothes, because clothes don't necessarily reflect affluence (remember the clothes shopping scene from Pretty Woman where Vivian is told to leave the store). A fellow I once knew went into a hi-fi shop with his wife and baby boy. They too were dressed casually. He had done his homework and had worked out exactly what sound and speaker system he wanted for his new home. The shop assistant sized him up and treated him with arrogance on the edge of contempt, and kept steering him towards lesser quality products. After a while, my friend left the shop confused and disgruntled. His wife then proceeded towards the manager and told him that because of her husband's treatment from the sales person, he had just lost a $20,000 sale – you see her husband was in fact a plastic surgeon.

Which brings me to the point I was wanting to make – when we finally said goodbye to the Fabergé salesperson and had inspected everything we wanted to see, we were approached by the manager of the store who in turn asked us politely and with great warmth whether he could help us in any way. I was also impressed by his sincerity and friendliness and the fact that both of them were attentive but not in our faces with the hard sell. I then spoke to him glowingly about the other young man and told him I was very impressed with the graciousness that his people had to offer.

Now, I may be not ready to buy a Fabergé piece, but I have a LONNNNNNNGGGG memory and you can bet your bottom dollar that I will give the sale to this Sydney store. I do so hope that both those gentlemen will be there to take my money because I will part with it gladly in recognition of their most excellent manners. They were a real credit to the Fabergé company.

If you want to check it out for yourselves go to: 19 Castlereigh st, Sydney NSW 2000 Australia. Phone: (02) 9232 8510.

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