Working with high-end event clients is a rewarding experience, but one that can be difficult to navigate at times. Luxury celebrations come with a steeper bill than the average event, so naturally the clients will expect more bang for their buck. Most will accept nothing less than perfection and in that, they might bring some unrealistic expectations to the table. Thus, you need to know how to navigate these planning conversations to ensure your clients aren’t being unreasonable.
After all, entering the luxury market can be a boon for your business--not only will you earn more from each client, but you’ll also have the chance to earn referral business from other high-end clients in attendance.
Let’s dig into luxury clients’ expectations and how we can meet them without sacrificing our own boundaries as busy event professionals.
Balance hands-on vs. hands-off
High-end clients tend to fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. They want to be part of (and possibly lead) the key decisions, but they don’t want to worry about the little things that need to fall in place. For example, they will want to choose their venue and color palette, but may not care to worry about the types of flowers used or who does them--so long as these elements fit into their vision. There are some key check-ins, but for the most part, clients pay the big bucks for you to do the heavy lifting and execute their vision flawlessly.
Convenience is valuable
Luxury clients expect a luxury experience--it’s as simple as that. When people invest money in anything, it needs to be easy on them. If you pay to fly first class, you get to skip the lines and are served a bracing beverage upon boarding. When you fly budget, you have to fight for overhead space and settle for a free bag of pretzels. You get what you pay for, and high-end clients expect their investment to provide a simple and stress-free experience from start to finish.
Keep third-party influencers at bay
We all know those clients who aren’t really making decisions by themselves. They have parents, friends, colleagues or supervisors who are right in their ear, influencing every choice they make. As an event professional, it’s important to designate a decision-maker early on in the planning process. If the parties cannot agree, who gets the final say? Otherwise, you may find yourself in an uncomfortable situation between family members or coworkers. Ideally, the decision-maker is the one who is signing the contract and paying the invoices; otherwise, things can get a bit sticky in regard to who feels entitled to an opinion.
Protect your boundaries
Clients of all budgets can be pushy and have unrealistic expectations, but it can be harder to set boundaries with those who make up a big chunk of your billables. While they do deserve high-end service, it should not come at the expense of your sanity. If a client believes you are their beck and call and consistently pushes your limits, it’s time to have a conversation to reestablish those boundaries. Couples appreciate honesty, but it has to be presented in a respectful and compassionate manner.
To ensure success when working with high-end clients, try to remember two simple (but crucial) rules:
1. Make them feel like they are your top priority.
Sure, your clients assume you have other clients but they don’t typically want to know about them. It’s important for them to feel like your attention is solely on their event. This means you must be flexible with your schedule and be available when they need you to be. Lightning-quick communication is a must; respond as quickly as possible to every email, call, or text you receive—it needs to feel like you’re always working for them.
On the flip side, don’t bombard your clients with communication either. They often have busy schedules that are out of the ordinary, so be clear and concise in your outreach and let them respond when available.
2. Exceed expectations by elevating the experience.
By going above and beyond a client’s expectations, you’re not only meeting them at their level but showing that you are more than just the services and products you provide. The client experience starts from the initial inquiry to post-event and beyond. Implement touch points throughout the process to send small client gifts to celebrate little milestones, such as a floral delivery mimicking the event aesthetic at the one month countdown, or some sweet treats on their birthday!
Surprise day-of details are also a fun way to build the excitement factor. Make it personal and unique, like a surprise visit from a favorite local musician or a food station revolving around childhood favorites. Other great ideas for unexpected entertainment could be caricature artists, aerial dancers or a food truck for late-night munchies. This is a great opportunity to seek out local talent as well!
High-end clients are really no different than budget clients; they expect the same value for their dollar and, since they are spending more than average, their expectations are heightened to match the cost. Of course, this is no excuse for inappropriate behavior, so always set your boundaries from the start and strive to go above and beyond expectations.
Nora Sheils is the co-founder of Rock Paper Coin, the first software platform to bring together wedding planners, couples, and vendors into one system for managing and paying contracts and invoices. She is also the founder and lead wedding planner of award-winning firm Bridal Bliss.