By Joana Mangune Posted November 29, 2012, 6:16 PM EST
As part of its Maverick series, the Event Leadership Institute hosted a discussion with notable wedding planners and designers on November 27. The event drew some 135 event and meeting professionals to the Lighthouse International Conference Center, where speakers Marcy Blum, Colin Cowie, Tara Guérard, and Ceci Johnson shared their business strategies with E.L.I. executive director Howard Givner. One focus of the one-on-one interviews was client relations.
“The biggest currency today is customer service,” said Cowie, founder of Colin Cowie Lifestyle. “It's all about how you can serve the customer.” Cowie argued the key lies in anticipating the needs of the customer and identifying something that could possibly change their lives. “I talk about this all the time with my staff—always look for opportunity to be of service. Look for things to do.”
For Johnson, founder and creative director of Ceci New York, a planner’s greatest service to clients is to guide them through their planning decisions. While speaking about the difference between sending physical invitations over digital ones, Johnson reminded planners that clients usually look to them as professionals for advice. “Instead of saying, ‘It’s okay,’ maybe say, ‘This is what you have to do. This is what tradition is,’” said Johnson.
While discussing her most recent experience with a client, Blum, owner of Marcy Blum Associates, noted the importance of finding out a client’s preferences, even down to their method of communicating. “You have to figure out—and this is all very quick and very subliminal—what makes them tick,” Blum said.
Blum told a story about sending several emails to a client who later asked why Blum couldn’t pick up the phone and call her instead. “And I thought, 'Wow, that’s so interesting. What did I miss?' Because most of my clients, 99 percent of them, would say, ‘Why the hell are you calling me all the time? Can’t you just email what the issue is or text me?’ So I think in the very beginning, it’s something to establish that not everyone is the same.”
Guérard, founder of Soirée by Tara Guérard, experienced a different reaction from her younger clients. Guérard noticed their need for immediate attention, so she incorporated technology to better serve their needs. “These young people, their lives are so fast. They want it now. They want it right now. They don’t want to come meet me next week. So now, I’m Skyping with them.”