For a while nowI've been promising myself a set of high-end headphones. This morning, credit card in hand, I entered an electronics store ready to buy. I chose one of the premium, boutique-style stores, where the staff are trained to use terminology like ‘sound-dampening’ and ‘reverb.’ 

The young salesman successfully persuaded me to spend double the amount I had planned. The sale was made and I was ready to hand over my card. Then I asked a simple question: “Can I try them on?” 

“I’ll have to ask my manager, sir,” he said. 

“Please do.” 

A moment later he returned, downcast, saying, “My manager says I’m not allowed to open the box.” Apparently, the business found the thought of me breaking a sellotape seal unacceptable. 

“Please tell your manager he just lost you a sale,” I said, then left and bought the same headphones, three minutes later, at another store. 

The salesman at the second store was part of a vast, generic electronics depot. He knew very little about ‘sound-dampening’ and I suspect that ‘reverb’ may have struck him as a form of gastro-intestinal complaint. But he was happy to open the box - the exact same box that the boutique store would not deign to violate - and I, in turn, was happy to give him the sale. 

When you’re selling cornflakes, of course you don’t need to humour a fussy customer. But when you want to be the Mercedes Benz of your industry, and you’re charging accordingly, the dynamic changes dramatically. If you're selling premium, you have to treat them that way. You go to extremes to communicate the message, ‘Your absolute satisfaction is our highest priority.’ 

Being premium is a choice. It may already be built into your costing. Is it built into your service? Ensure that it is and you just might own your industry.