I usually don’t write things about fashion… I leave that to the pros! This time, however, my focus is on a particular aspect of the very competitive market of fashion design in Second Life®: custom service.
We all know that the vast majority of fashion designers (and, indeed, most in-world-shop-based content creators) establish themselves as mostly an “automated shop”. The rationale behind it is that people are used to shop via the Web where you have no human beings to talk to. For the low cost of (most) content in Second Life, it’s not worth having “humans” attending the customers. Also, giving 24/7 support is probably not worthwhile in terms of costs.
And, last but not least, a few shop owners who relied in the past on shop attendants apparently had a bad experience — commissions on sales were not worth the trouble of staying in the same spot for hours on the end, paying a “salary” to people that log in for a few days but then quickly give up on SL (or on the business who employs them), or simply a lack of understanding of what they were selling at the shop (I’m just listing a few of the “horror stories” I’ve heard; I tried to establish a “business for newbies” where I gave 50% commission on sales, all they had to do is walk around and try to push my items to people they met — but I got just one sale done over several years…). Add to this the difficulties of actually knowing if your customers aren’t cheating on you — asking for replacements “because this item was never delivered to my alt”, asking for refunds (but with no-transfer items you can’t ever give the item back…), the CopyBot drama, and who knows what else… and you can see how terrible content business in SL can be.
Last week, faithfully reading what my friend Ana Lutetia has to say about the latest trends in SL fashion, because I was looking for a bolero to attend an event, I decided to try a brand I hadn’t shopped with before — Kunglers. I’ll leave the details on how good or bad their designs are, or how fashionable and trendy they are, to the experts in the field; I usually take Ana’s recommendations seriously, she knows what she’s doing, so I was pretty sure this would be a good recommendation 🙂
I’m also not going to comment on how good the shop is or how it compares to other shops; these days, content creators are really so extraordinarily good that all shops look pretty much the same to me, with the same “must have” options (like all sorts of clever discount packs, Subscribe-o-Matic or groups to deliver “preview items” to “special” customers, and that kind of thing). The fashion business in SL is incredibly mature, and if someone’s designs are regularly featured on the major fashion blogs and e-Zines, you can expect a certain standard of quality and a degree of professionalism from all of them. Competition is fierce and nobody wishes to be left behind.
So imagine my surprise when after buying half a dozen outfits I suddenly got an IM from one of the two partners of Kunglers (AvaGardner) thanking me so much for shopping at their place, and offering me a landmark to their main shop, where they would have even more new designs. It’s been quite a while since I had had such a personalised contact in SL (if my memory doesn’t fail me, the last time was at Simone’s old shop, because Simone happened to be in-world adding things to her vendors) so I was positively impressed! The shop was by no means empty, but crowded with lots of happy customers — and I obviously teleported to the main shop, which was also full, and bought another outfit. Providing good customer experience should be rewarded, and nothing like voting with your wallet 🙂
That same day I happened to talk about this lovely experience to some friends of mine. They sort of shrugged it off; most commented that it’s pretty much impossible to track down all the sales and IM each customer with a friendly message, it’s simply worthless to take so much effort, and fashion designers cannot afford to lose time doing that, but ought to focus on what they’re good at: doing impressive designs. That’s why most use automated replies. But, well, I’m a big believer that the major virtue of Second Life is that it’s all about people, and I always felt sorry that shopping for SL content is cold, impersonal, automated, and just handled by machines. But, granted, I understand that there is a trade-off here — how much can you expect to reasonably invest in good and friendly service, instead of doing what the competition is doing, namely, launch a huge amount of new products 🙂
The next day, very early in (my) morning, Kunglers’ other partner also IMed me, basically thanking me as well and sending me a new landmark 🙂 I’ve thanked back and told her that AvaGardner had also provided the same landmark — that’s how I knew it was not a “canned” response. Apparently both partners are indeed tracking down the customers and thanking them, manually and personally, for their shopping.
That’s nice, but it doesn’t stop here! I noticed that AvaGardner’s skirts were modifiable, which is a nice touch I appreciate — unlike most supermodel bodies out there, my dear old avatar has enough curves on all the wrong spots that would drive Tim Gunn insane and get Stacy London hysterical — since it means I can fit them properly. It also means that I can drop my sit-with-flexiskirt script inside. So I thought I’d send that script over to AvaGardner, thinking that she might find it useful.
Well, the next day, I didn’t have just a nice thank you from AvaGardner — she did far more, by launching a new dress on her Couture line with my name! Now that is the ultimate in friendly and nice customer support indeed! I was doubly amazed, since I had never talked to AvaGardner before in my life, I’m definitely totally out of the fashion business (so she couldn’t expect me to recommend her in any way), she very likely has absolutely no clue of who I am, and, to be honest, I didn’t spend that much on the Kungler shops — it was just a first visit, and their designs are very low priced: I’m sure I got a handful for just the price of a cup of coffee and a slice of cake (at least in my country, where both are cheap).
And what did I get in return? A lot of friendly IMs and a free new outfit with my name on it! Isn’t that simply the best example of customer experience ever? And that for a complete stranger — I can only imagine what the Kunglers do to their regular customers, I’m sure that they’re treated like royalty…
I can only applaud the Kunglers, be amazed at the level of customer support they’re willing to give, and point it out as an excellent example of how the shopping experience in SL can still be improved, by just adding the human touch — and wish them all the best of luck with their business, which I’m sure it’s a big success. No wonder the fashionista bloggers all recommend their outfits — the human touch does, indeed, make a difference. Thanks, Kunglers, and good luck for you!
And I hope that you comment on how you had similar experiences with other content creators out there 🙂 These people certainly deserve all our encouragement for doing business in the best way possible: making customers happy by talking to them.
The Juicy Bomb fashion blog did an outstanding review of Kunglers as well, also showing AvaGardner’s “Gwyneth” outfit 🙂 Thanks to Antonius Camus for pointing this out to me!