Editor's Letter: Elevating Your "VIC" Vibe

During the pandemic, did you hold your clients’ virtual hands, bestowing attention on them to keep their travel dreams alive? Those bonds forged over Zoom with your Very Important Clients (VICs) in 2020 might seem light years away but it’s vital you retain that level of closeness. A white paper recently published by The Business of Fashion called “Selling Luxury to the 1%” points out that during COVID, VICs got used to luxury suppliers providing them with a high level of personal attention in order to retain their business. Post-COVID, these customers are expecting the same amount of care.

“In addition to competition among brands, fashion has to compete for attention [from VICs] with luxury companies across adjacent industries, like art and design, travel and hospitality, cars and private jets,” says the study.

This means, in turn, that travel advisors have to compete with fashion, art and design and expensive cars when vying for the high-net-worth client’s attention. And because travel is not a “thing,” it’s an “experience,” it is making demands on the customer’s greatest asset: time.

“[Ultra-high-net-worth consumers] are more short on time than money. It’s easy [for them to] buy products; it’s more difficult to convince them to spend some time with you,” said Claudia D’Arpizio, partner at Bain & Company, the management consulting firm based in New York.

It always comes back to time, doesn’t it? How do you get your client to feel comfortable with you enough to engage in meaningful conversations?

In December, I wrote about Robert Chavez, managing director of Hermès Americas, who spoke at the Embark Beyond conference about the need for consultants to be curious about their clients but to gather information from them in gentle ways so as to not be overbearing.

That’s a challenge, but I argue that it’s imperative for a luxury travel advisor to draw out the wants and dreams of a VIC or else risk losing the client (and their discretionary income) to that fashion brand that flies them to New York or Paris for a private fashion show at their atelier or that art auction house that gives your VIC first dibs on masterpieces that have just come back onto the market. This is the level of competition you’re dealing with in the ultra-luxury market.

Here’s another point of view: A realtor I know emails me house listings regularly. I look at them but typically don’t respond because nothing interests me. However, a few weeks ago he texted me instead of emailing me with a listing he was very excited about. I still didn’t like it but because he’d really sought me out I took the time to respond that it wasn’t for me. His response? “Please tell me exactly what’s on your wish list and I’ll find the perfect house for you.”

That got me going. He’d asked for it so I gave him a very long list of features: Sunroom, garage opening to the side of the property (not the street), no wall-to-wall carpeting, I even threw in a swimming pool for good measure.

I thought I’d turned him off with the extensive details but he thanked me profusely and within hours came back to me with several listings that were much closer to what I was looking for. Since then we’ve had much more meaningful communications because what we’re saying to each other is building toward a goal we’re both invested in.

Think about it. If you give your client the opportunity to let loose with everything they truly want in a trip, you can mold that intel into really relevant offerings. Assure them they’re not bothering you and that they are simply helping you to create a roster of life-changing vacations for them.

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