The migration consulting business is clearly thriving in Australia. According to the latest Migration Agent Activity Report released by MARA, during the first half of 2017, registered migration agents lodged 54% of Business Skills visa applications, 76% of the total 457 Temporary Work (Skilled) visa applications and 86% of Employer Sponsored visa applications.

Industry growth & profitability generally leads to increased supply-side competition and this has proven true for Migration Agents in Australia as well. The chart below highlights a staggering 43% growth of registered agents from 4,899 in 2013 to just over 7,000 in 2017.

Registered Migration Agents growth in Australia

We then contrasted this with the demand for migration consulting services and used the NOM arrivals as a proxy. As you can see from the table below, the NOM arrivals have been reasonably flat around 500,000 for the past 6 years and in fact, some of the key categories that require migration consulting services have declined.

NOM arrivals

Combining these two facts, it is apparent that whilst there are more options for clients, there is increased competitive pressure for the agents to win the business. Therefore, effective client management is becoming an important part of the proposition for the migration industry.

Many studies have shown that it costs between 4x – 10x more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. Yet the migration industry continues to lag in this aspect vis-à-vis financial services or telecommunications. Anecdotal evidence shows that on average a potential client would have one interaction with a migration agent before cutting off all communication if they were unsatisfied with the first impression. It is time that migration agents took a deeper look at the challenges facing this industry and focussed more on effective client engagement strategies. After all, a delighted client will become your brand ambassador for future referrals.

The migration consultants face competition not only from others in the industry but also from the clients who often question themselves whether or not they should engage the service. Based on our research, we have summarised the top five challenges facing the migration industry in Australia from a client management perspective:

Building Trust – Clients needs to develop trust in you and your organisation before they choose to engage. This is even more critical today given the plethora of information available online enabling clients to “shop around” before they commit to an agency. The client often gives more importance to the trust he/she has on the consultant they talk to than the range of services being offered.

Navigating through complexity & confusion – One of the main benefits that migration consultants provide is the elimination of confusion in what is deemed to be a complex process. Clients are faced with the daunting task of organising documents, filling in forms, obtaining reference letters, police clearance, etc., whilst they continue to do their day job. They are reliant on their advisers to provide them with a clear set of tasks to be achieved in a timely manner ensuring there is transparency in the process.

Quantifying service value – Since advice services are intangible, clients cannot see or hold them before they buy it. Clients are therefore uncertain about the quality of service and feel they are taking a risk. From the agent perspective, they find it challenging to highlight the differentiation, control quality and set the price of the service to be provided.

Delivering the service and growing at the same time – More often than not, owners of migration consultancies have to deliver the service and pursue business development activities simultaneously. Coordinating sales, marketing, and operational activities can be a tedious task with limited staff. Agencies are often asking the question – “How can we grow without having to increase our fixed cost base?”

Defining and improving quality – Services, such as migration consulting, are produced and consumed simultaneously, which is in stark contrast to the product industry where the manufacturer gets ample opportunity to test the products before they reach the market. During service production, the client is right in front of the consultant. Therefore, Migration agencies need to find a way to deliver a high level of service repeatedly by everyone in the organisation time and again to build a reputable brand.

These are some of the challenges facing migration consultants, over and above the changing regulatory landscape, technological advances, etc. To counter this competitive pressure and differentiate your business, it is now imperative to step up your client engagement approach. In our next article, we will discuss some strategies that will enable you to deliver an amazing client experience.