We turned to our friend and WeddingPro Educator, Bethel Nathan and owner of Ceremonies by Bethel, to give us a rundown of what it takes to truly manage client expectations. Enjoy!
Couples base their expectations on two main categories: the wedding product or service they’re paying for, and the experience they have with you. A ‘win’ for any business is when the reality of your product/service doesn’t just match the couple’s expectations but exceeds it! This means not only delivering a good product but also a good customer experience–the journey the couple takes with you from the time they find you until the time they finish working with you. And that’s what we’re going to focus on here.
So, why does their customer experience really matter? Well, it all comes back to the concept of building an ideal couple cycle that makes your wedding business grow and become more profitable. If you deliver on the experience of working with you, more ideal couples will come your way through recommendations. And remember, the couple has most likely never done this before.You want to not only control the what, when, and how, but also make sure the couple understands them and agrees to them with you. Otherwise, they will set their own expectations, which might not match reality. Here are four ways to set those expectations.
1. Use those marketing channels to set expectations.
Since most couples have never done this before, their expectations of working with someone in your category are probably set by what they read in articles or hear from those who are already married. While their initial expectation of working with your business, specifically, is set by your marketing, reviews, and word of mouth references. This is why you need to make sure that all of the messaging you control is consistent and saying what you want your ideal couple to expect out of you.
2. Customize your communication plans.
From the time they reach out until the end of their customer experience, the couple’s journey with you is managed by your communications with them. Therefore, it’s important that you create a communication plan that is customized to your ideal couple. A business that is lower cost but doing higher volume will most likely have, for good reason, a different communication plan than a higher cost, lower volume wedding business in the same category. Different ideal couples with different general expectations. Even your different offerings will need different plans, as you wouldn’t have the same plan for your full-service wedding planning client that you would for your month-of wedding management client.
3. Start setting expectations early.
I recommend discussing the major pieces of their journey during the initial meeting. I also recommend that when telling them about those pieces, tell them a bit about why you do it and the benefit to them. This makes sure that you are on the same page before they book you. For example, as an Officiant, I have two homework assignments that my couples do for me in order to create a custom ceremony. Since that is the only way I do it, they have to be on board with it, or we will not be the right fit and there will be mutual frustrations and disappointments, leading to less-than-ideal customer experience. After they book you, I recommend sending a post-booking email that reiterates the major pieces of the journey with more detail. Think of it as a map for first-time visitors, like you would expect walking into a museum for the first time. Help them know what to expect and when! In my case, I start the ceremony creation process four months out, no matter how far out they book me. I always make sure to let them know this and to explain the positive reason I do this. That way they aren’t wondering when we’ll start, and will be ready when I reach out.
4. Manage expectations throughout the journey. When you are communicating with the couple about a particular piece of the journey, include some information about what is next. By keeping them informed you avoid them setting their own timelines that stray from yours. Getting things done on time, and smoothly, is one of the major reasons they hire a professional. Moreover, communicating expectations and next steps reduces the number of “out of the blue” questions or emails and allows you to more easily steer the couple back to the path you want them to follow. Yes, it’s still good (and important) to be flexible and communicate back when they get in touch, but the consistency and quality of the journey come from following the path. Remember: they haven’t done this before, and you are the expert, so help them in the best way possible.
By starting with the above and consistently refining these general ideas based on your business and your ideal couples, you can meet or exceed your ideal couple’s expectations, which will lead to more raving reviews and referrals, and more ideal couples coming your way.
See my webinar “How to Strengthen Your Customer Experience and Generate Future Business” for more tips on how to deliver a top-notch customer experience.
Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach, and industry speaker. Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business. And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love… helping others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses. Learn more at www.elevatebybethel.com.