Flawless customer service is crucial for building lasting loyalty, according to David Hathiramani, Co-founder of A Suit That Fits.
There can be few people who know you as well as your tailor, says David. In an environment where many retailers can't begin to know all their customers' names, the team at A Suit That Fits knows their customers intimately.
"We have to make sure we deliver what we promise at every step," said David. "Making sure our customers understand the proposition, that they understand tailoring. For many customers it might be their first experience that's not off the peg. They're measured, go through styles with a style advisor, have fittings, and we have to make sure the whole experience is fantastic."
It's a difficult product to get right admits David, but he says once the customer gets the end product they don't go anywhere else.
The concept is that most customers find the service online. The website explains how it works, and introduces the fabrics and styles. Customers then book an appointment with a style advisor, who helps them choose the suit.
They're then measured, a pattern is produced, and finally there are fittings before the suit is finished and the pattern is saved for future purchases. Appointments are at one of the companies' studios, not in high-street locations, but places that are convenient for businesses. It can all be done online too and customers can measure themselves or a style advisor can come to their home or place of work.
"Tailoring is something that has only ever been offline," said David. "But there are lots of really cool ways you can engage customers online. They can choose fabric swatches on our website and we send them out. It's a way of blending the digital and offline experience."
David believes that once you've got the basics right in a business in terms of product and service there is then a good foundation to create a relationship between the business and the customer. The style advisors are key to building loyalty as their customer relationships are on-going and they'll exchange tweets with the customers and contact them. They're given guidance on how to build relationships with customers, such as dos and don'ts on Twitter, but generally the aim is to let them be themselves.
"We don't want the relationship with our style advisors to be a plastic experience," said David. "They all have Twitter handles. We don't mind if they're interested in motorbikes and do the odd tweet about that.
"Our website is what we do and how we do it but social media is more who we are. We try to win people over by who we are. We don't want to come across as stuffy."
However David admits there are limits to social media, only occasionally will someone post up a photo of themselves in a new suit because of the customer demographic – they're likely to be established business people. "A lot of time our customer want that expert advice because they want to fit in rather than stand out."
Because of the way it works and what it sells, the brand has a high level of emotional loyalty from customers. Style advisors have even been invited to customer's weddings.
"We try and be a trusted advisor and friend to our customers rather than just someone who works in a business you're buying from," said David. "Buying a suit is a very personal thing, even though people might only do it once a year. Not many people know you as well as your tailor."
It is hoped that the relationship between the style advisor and the customer is held by the company, so that if the style advisor changes, customers will be introduced to a new one.
A Suit That Fits also has a referral scheme which it says works well for them. Everyone gets a set of referral cards that have a unique code. When one of their friends uses the code, they get Â£50 or Â£25 credit, cash and their friend will get Â£25 discount.
Weaving together on and off-line experiences is new, but the concept of building customer loyalty through personal relationships is a pattern that's been used by retailers forever.
David Hathiramani will be speaking at this year's Europe's Customer Festival on issues surrounding customer loyalty. As you can tell, his spirit for growing his customers and providing an invaluable service to them is huge and so his talk is most definitely not one to miss.
You can also get a great run down of this and other interviews and case studies, including Aimia’s Jan-Pieter Lips, in Total Customer’s completely free Little Book of Loyalty.