Luxe retailer takes pride in its people

Luxe retailer takes pride in its people

As a chill-out spot goes, the new lounge at DFS Galleria Singapore takes some beating with its makeover counters, posh fittings and attentive staff.

The 2,500 sq ft facility in Scotts Road has become a favoured place for members of the luxury travel retailer's loyalty programme.

They sometimes drop by to freshen up or get a re-fit at the brightly lit make-up room before dinner.

But mostly, it's a place where customers can rest their feet after some serious shopping, enjoy some refreshments - provided free - check their mail, and get help with restaurant bookings or transport if needed.

DFS sells brand-name beauty products and luxury goods like handbags, watches and jewellery.

The brands it carries include Burberry, Estee Lauder and Gucci.

Previously, the store had a very small lounge but it seemed a no-brainer to expand it to offer customers the sort of plush experience the DFS Group - headquartered in Hong Kong and Singapore and owned by LVMH and co-founder Robert Miller - prides itself on.

Customers who spend at least $75,000 at the store get invites to exclusive events where they may find something very rare like certain watches.

On the retail floor, however, the luxe experience is available to every customer, even if they were to buy just a lipstick, says Ms Jade Macaulay, learning and development manager at DFS Venture Singapore.

Its managing director for Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, Mr Craig McKenna, adds: "It's difficult in retail to find a true competitive edge. Our one big differentiating point is people.

"Competition is enormous. But that's retail, you get pushed, you get better."

Which is why DFS spent over $1 million to start its "Apprentice to Master" luxury service programme in 2010 to drive culture change. It worked with a consultant to craft the content of the employee training programme.

"We've always had service training but nothing as sophisticated as this," says Mr McKenna.

All employees have to go through two facets of the new training while selected staff go for the third facet where they get in-depth guidance in topics such as emotional intelligence.

"What we are doing is to teach them about themselves. If you understand your own temperament, then you can understand the temperament of the customer," says Ms Macaulay.

It's a far cry from what they used to teach, such as greeting customers within a certain time.

"It's getting away from profiling customers and treating them as a homogenous crowd," says Mr McKenna.

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