You expect Me to serve You?

Arrogance: a heightened sense of self-importance, overt pride and a behaviour of superiority over others. We might seek to avoid those we consider to be arrogant, but what if arrogance is demonstrated by luxury service staff to their customers? What might cause an employee to act in this way, how might their customer react, and will it affect sales and subsequent brand evaluations? We consider the issues surrounding arrogance in luxury.

As the customer walks into the luxury service environment, be it a first class lounge to rest for an hour pre-flight, or a bank specialising in wealth management, their assumption is that a representative of the company will be available to assist them as and when they require it. There are many attention signals a customer can send out, and in most cases the employee will respond to these in a timely manner. Unless of course the employee is arrogant, feels it is beneath them to serve the particular customer, and chooses to ignore them or treat them in a haughty fashion. The relationship between exhibited arrogance from an employee and the subsequent reaction from the customer is extremely complex, and will depend upon:

Negative assumptions: Luxury staff work within the optimum experiential service environment, they are at the high end, offering the elite service to their customers. Part of offering this enhanced experience comes in their superior observational and communication skills that allow them to subtly assess their customers’ requirements. But if these skills are misdirected, and the employee makes assumptions about the customer from how they are dressed, how they speak or their level of ease within the luxury environment subsequently finding the customer lacking, arrogance can follow. The employee can become so inured to the luxury that surrounds them that they, mistakenly, feel that their position is as a gatekeeper to the brand with only those they deem worthy granted access.

Confidence: Confidence is essential for luxury service staff, in their skills and knowledge and in their understanding of the service process. Sadly, when employees feel a lack of confidence they can grasp at the readily available and extremely poor substitute, arrogance. Confidence is about a strong sense of self and capability whereas arrogance takes this to a different level with the individual wishing to belittle others and make them feel inferior, and this is something that training should address. Similarly, confidence in the customer will determine their response to arrogance: customers with high self-image and confidence who are secure in the luxury service process are more likely to identify arrogant service as an anomaly. This can be particularly relevant for customers who, for one reason or another, may be new to the luxury environment. When faced with arrogance, these valuable clients are likely to remove themselves from the luxury service environment, resulting in lost sales.

Product life cycle: Luxury brands are strategically positioned as such with all of the requisite consumer focused marketing. Over time, this forms a picture in the customers’ mind of what the brand offers, high quality, good service and so forth. But for new brands, customers will not have this picture to recall when faced with arrogance from a staff member and may view it as indicative.

Customer attitudes: Attitudes can be both implicit and explicit. Implicit attitudes are often hidden or unconscious, perhaps they are attitudes formed during childhood to particular luxury brands whereas explicit attitudes are those we are more aware of. Thus, if a customer has strong implicit attitudes towards a luxury airline, perhaps it was the airline their parents used, and they are greeted by arrogant airline staff, they may form negative explicit attitudes. They are upset at their mistreatment, but overall, and likely over time, the embedded implicit attitude may override enabling them to give the brand another chance.

We have seen the complexity of the reasons for, and reactions to, arrogance in luxury service. To attempt to predict a customer’s response to employee arrogance on the basis of their implicit attitudes, characteristics, or the product life cycle is a game of Russian roulette that no luxury brand would wish to partake in. Similarly, to unleash service staff on luxury customers without adequate training to address issues such as negative assumptions, and without training to ensure optimum skill and knowledge, shows a disregard for customers and the brand itself. There is no easy way to tell exactly what the response to arrogance from service staff will be, but there are sure ways to ensure that staff will not exhibit arrogant behaviours.


Luxury Academy London

Paul Russell is co-founder and director of Luxury Academy London,, a multi-national private training company with offices in London, Delhi and Visakhapatnam. Luxury Academy London specialise in leadership, communication and business etiquette training for companies and private clients across a wide range of sectors. Prior to founding Luxury Academy London, Paul worked in senior leadership roles across Europe, United States, Middle East and Asia. A dynamic trainer and seminar leader, Paul has designed and taught courses, workshops and seminars worldwide on a wide variety of soft skills.