Success in relocation: It is all about quality

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“If we had to choose between marketing and customer service, we would choose the latter since most of our business comes from referrals.”  These were the sentiments of Helena Harless from HR Relocation when we asked her what she would do if she had to choose between investing more in marketing or improving the customer service at their company.

Geneva is a city consisting of hundreds of international organizations, non-governmental organizations and multinationals that employ people from all over the world. For this reason, there is a constant flow of people coming in and out of Geneva for short or long contracts. In addition to the already established companies, there are also companies that relocate their businesses to the area every year, bringing with them some employees to their new offices. Geneva’s location makes it attractive for many corporate headquarters since it is within reach of many European capitals including London, Paris, Rome etc. Relocation businesses therefore play an important role in helping companies and people relocating to Geneva settle in and find housing in the city.

We were fortunate to have an interview with Helena Harless and Maria Akesson Peyrot at HR Relocation based in Geneva. They have been in the business of relocating people and companies to and from Geneva for over 20 years. They specialize in providing companies and individuals with a personalized service in the cantons of Geneva, Vaud and neighboring France. Their customized services include not only assistance in finding homes and schools, but also support in other procedures to help their customers settle in easily and smoothly.

What kinds of clients do they deal with?

When HR Relocation receive a client inquiry, they define the profile they are dealing with. This is important for them so they are able to customize their services to this particular client. In relocation, every case is different and there is no one solution for multiple clients. Companies represent 80% of their client base and 20% are individual clients. Some of their clients are people who have lived in Geneva for some years and are now looking for a new home. Local customers use HR Relocation to benefit from their expertise, to gain time and for the service discretion.Images HR 182

There are also clients who are commuters. They work in Geneva during the week and go back to their families during the weekend. These clients usually look for a furnished one- or two- bedroom apartment in the city centre, close to their work and transportation.

The contract duration varies. There are clients who only need help getting a house, while others need help with school search services, finding the right gym, a nanny, or even activities for families or children. The only thing HR Relocation does not handle is financial matters. For this, they are happy to refer their clients to the appropriate bank or financial institution. Some of the clients stay in contact up to the end of their stay and use HR Relocation when they depart from the Geneva area.

For this reason, HR Relocation prefer to keep the client files open as long as they are still in Geneva so the client can always come to them in case of any extra needs.

Why relocation agencies are important

When a company moves to Geneva, they want their employees to settle in as fast as possible and with the least amount of stress, so they can continue to concentrate on their productivity. When the employees and their families move to Geneva, there are some things that culturally they might need to know. They need to know about some of the rules that govern community living, like noise levels and what is acceptable and what is not. Most foreigners moving from North America, for example, need to be informed about the limited opening hours and the limited selection of shops compared to what they are used to.  This helps them to get more organized.

The other clients of HR Relocation are people who already live in Geneva and are looking for a new rented apartment or to buy property. These clients hire HR Relocations to use their house search services. With the housing market in Geneva being tough, there is a growing number of locals who are using this service whenever they need to change housing.

What qualities make a good relocation agent?

A good relocation agent is sensitive to the needs of the client, no matter who the client is. This can be demonstrated by understanding the general culture the client is coming from. This is the reason most relocation agents are multilingual. At HR Relocation, for example, the employees all speak at least 3 languages. They have also lived in different parts of the world, which gives them a better capacity to empathize with the clients.

Another important quality is adaptability. As we said before, no two clients are the same. For this reason, you should be able to deal with the client as an individual. You therefore have to adapt to each customer’s needs. When the client is a company with 15 employees from 5 different countries, the approach is not the same as a public figure living in Geneva and looking for a house.Images HR 198

It is vital that the agent be an independent worker as well as a team player. At HR Relocation, each client is handled by an individual employee. However, sometimes it is important to know and to work with the rest of the team to figure out how to best help a client. When it is a big group, for example when it is a company relocation, then it is important to work as a team and solve the problems or to get ideas.

How do they deal with different cultures?

Clients come from different cultures and countries and have different expectations. HR Relocation’s slogan is “Key connections for people on the move”. They are the first point of contact for most of their clients, apart from their place of work, meaning they have to be very welcoming to the clients. The questions they receive from their customers are very varied; they range from legal matters regarding their lease contract to practical matters such as opening hours of shops or where to find the closest ski slope.

Cultural awareness is key. For example, a client who moves from Singapore and is used to a building with a doorman and a swimming pool will benefit from the explanation that these kinds of built-in services are not readily available in Switzerland. The relocation agent will therefore have to provide options that are both within the price range of the client and offer a comfort similar to what the client expects.

The HR Relocation team fully understands that relocating to a new place is very stressful. Their main aim is to make the relocation experience smooth and easy by providing a high quality service, surpassing all expectations while respecting the indicated budget and meeting the customer’s needs.

Source: Interview with Helena Harless, Managing Director, and Maria Peyrot, Consultant, HR Relocation SARL

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