As we start to get back into the business of weddings and live events, many of us are finding ourselves concerned about how to achieve our clients’ dream celebrations with COVID-19 still hovering in the background. The hard truth is that it’s not going anywhere until there’s a vaccine readily available, so getting back into the planning process can seem like a challenge.
Understanding the client experience from a big-picture perspective is key. Simply put, it’s the journey a couple takes when deciding to reach out and interact with you--even before they sign any contracts. In fact, the client experience is arguably more significant during the sales process, as it can be the defining factor in whether a prospect books you.
The client experience draws together everything from your website, your social media feeds, your email communications, and all of the touchpoints built into your client-facing workflows. Yet, with COVID-19 impacting the industry across the world, our client experience is looking a bit different as we find our footholds in the “new normal.”
There are five key areas that form a client’s experience with your brand, so let’s take a look at how you can enhance each aspect while remaining mindful of the current global health crisis.
1. The First Look
No, not at the ceremony--this is the first look a potential client has of your brand. More often than not, this will be your website, so you need to consider how your ideal client should feel while interacting with your website. At this point of time, many couples are ready to move on and start planning all the fun and beautiful parts of their future weddings. However, they’re doing so with an extra focus on the health and safety of their guests.
You should certainly keep all of the wonderful inspiration on your page, but a brief note (or even a dedicated FAQ page or blog post) about everything your company is doing to abide by health guidelines can assuage some of the fear that comes with planning a wedding amidst a pandemic. This is an initial step to building the trust factor with all potential clients.
2. The Inquiry Procedure
When a lead is ready to reach out for more information, what is the process like? Put yourself in the shoes of a prospect and navigate your website to evaluate the ease of inquiry. Is there a strong and easy-to-find call to action that encourages visitors to book a consultation? It should be as simple as possible for them to get in touch with you, so consider whether you need to update your website to improve the user experience.
This also includes your initial response to incoming inquiries. Most of us use customizable templates to streamline our communications and, in some cases, our first outgoing email with a client is an auto-responder. There’s no problem with this, but in these times, consider updating your auto-responder or your template to include your latest COVID-related information (or link to the page mentioned in the first step). Putting out valuable info before they ask is an effective way to enhance the client experience and demonstrate your expertise on the matter.
3. The Booking Procedure
This step should really be as seamless as possible. Make things as easy as possible for your soon-to-be new clients by streamlining the booking process with digital tools. Paper contracts are a thing of the past; virtual contracts are the new thing, and they aren’t going anywhere. Likewise, don’t expect paper checks for all of your deposits; invest in an online invoicing system that allows new clients to pay with a few clicks on their smartphone.
Going digital is more important than ever before, as we collectively strive to limit the spread of the coronavirus. If something can be done contact-free, there’s no reason to force in-person meetings or snail-mail communications on someone who is more comfortable online. Don’t leave them with any doubt about their choice to book you for their celebration.
4. The Client Journey
Once booked, it’s time to put your client experience into overdrive and go above and beyond expectations. Consider all your touchpoints with clients and see if you can enhance them in any way possible. During this time, many couples are feeling understandably stressed and overwhelmed by the uncertainty presented by COVID-19. For this reason, it’s smart to build in additional touchpoints to check in with your clients and see how they’re faring emotionally.
Do what you can to lift their spirits as much as possible along the way. Note their birthdays and other personal information, like whether they have pets or their favorite type of wine, so you can send a little surprise their way every now and then. The more you know about your clients, the more you can personalize their experience from start to finish.
5. The Post-Wedding Period
Even after the “I do’s” have been said and the wedding has come to a close, the client experience doesn’t end--in fact, some would argue that the client experience should never end. Past clients are a valuable source of referral traffic, so it’s a smart business move to continue interacting with clients after their wedding.
Take some time to follow them on social media and be intentional about engaging with them. Share their photos and tag them in it with a sweet note. Keep their wedding date in your calendar so you can send them an anniversary card when they reach the one-year mark. These actions might seem like small potatoes, but collectively, they show a client that you value them beyond the final invoice.
All of this is to say: Show your clients how much you care about them every step of the way. While their wedding might be a one-time celebration, the client experience goes well beyond the 24 hours of an event and, if you get it right, you’ll find that your business flourishes as a result.
Kylie Carlson is the owner of The Wedding Academy. With seven locations globally, the Academy boasts an internationally recognized accreditation program that brings professional training to wedding planners, designers and stylists.