How to Really Engage with Clients

Resurg recently attended a travel conference in Vietnam. There were 4 key areas that the best agents in one of the world’s major networks focused on.

One of these was the need to combat commoditisation with Client intimacy or in other words client engagement. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘delighting clients’ but what do these words really mean? When we are engaged by a client to organise their travel they ought to be happy if that work is completed as expected. Sometimes though, over the period of an engagement theirexpectations can change. This can be as a result of a growing understanding on their part as to what it is they really need and so their expectations change. So how can we ensure a situation like this doesn’t result in an unhappy or disengaged client? Clearly it’s important to identify and restate any changes to what was originally discussed as soon as they arise but its equally important to get the inter-personal chemistry right.
Some rules then for getting the chemistry right between you and your client:
Listen More Than You Talk
It’s only when you are making suggestions and describing aspects of your work in detail that you will need to do most of the talking. Not talking a lot might seem strange for you and even to some of your clients, as they often get used to people meeting with them and in next to no time telling them what they should be doing based only on a brief assessment of their needs. Don’t get sucked into this mistake, take time to listen to what your client thinks are the issues/needs they have and probe with questions that make them think (open questions, not closed) before you respond. Tip: make it clear from the start that you will be asking lots of questions, listening and engaging in dialogue – You’re their personal specialist right!
Don’t Agree With All They Say
A client comes to you to get an impartial, objective assessment so don’t pander to their egos and agree with all they say or suggest. They can get that from anyone wanting to sell to them at all costs and probably do, especially in our industry. You and your staff are advisors not service providers and the fundamental difference between the two, which they are looking for, is for you to use your knowledge and expertise to tell them what is in their best interest. This will inevitably lead to you helping them change their mind. As a specialist you are best placed to say what you see even if it is uncomfortable for people to hear. Providing you are suitably diplomatic about how you put it across you will be providing just what your client needs and probably wanted in the first place. Tip: be sensitive in how you put across information that might be seen as difficult and ask for a confidential one-to-one with your client if your environment doesn’t allow this to be facilitated freely.
Deliver What’s Asked For And More
Make sure you keep a close eye on what you recognised as the key deliverables and needs of your client as it is extremely easy to drift on these in the process of pulling together their plans. If it looks like some of the original requests can no longer be met even when you have been diverted by the client into other possibilities make sure you flag this early and get it agreed so its accepted and not assumed. Simply by being involved with your client and their business in the course of your engagement you will be providing additional support and input over and above what was originally asked for. Keep a note of these and make sure you include a mention of them at catch-up appointments. Tip: reflect on your engagement after it has concluded and jot down some observations and thoughts that you can then send to your client.
If you can get the chemistry right with your client and deliver to them what they need in as professional manner as possible then you are well placed for repeat business and referrals. Who doesn’t want that?