Not every expatriate will need the same services and the same level of service. A family will need and expect different services than will a single expatriate; experienced expatriates will probably need less assistance than inexperienced ones.
Knowing what you expect of the relocation agency – whether you are an individual expatriate looking for assistance in moving to a new city, or a human resources manager looking to arrange services for multiple relocations within your firm – is the key to getting the service you need. Analyzing your needs before approaching the agency is therefore likely to increase the likelihood of finding the most suitable service for you. However, an agency should be willing to work with you and offer advice to help structure the most suitable program for your needs. Single people will want to know where they can socialize with people similar to themselves, while married couples may want to know where they can get career advice for a spouse who would like to work in the new country.
Families are likely to be more concerned about the pluses and minuses of living in particular city districts, particularly the pros and cons of the different schools available and how to enroll their children in the most suitable one. Draw up a list of the essential services required and also ones that it might be useful to have. Most agencies are flexible in the packages they offer and will tailor the services provided to match your personal requirements.
The flexibility should not stop there, though: the agency should be willing to drop or add specific services as the needs of individual clients become clear during their transition. Some relocation companies offer corporate clients the option of allowing each expatriate to choose individual services off a shopping list, up to a pre-set charge limit, to match their specific needs.
Big agencies with offices in many countries and cities can offer economies of scale as well as administration and continuity of services for companies with many expatriates. Small agencies, often run by expatriates or repatriates, can offer personal, economical and tailored services in their area. They are also more likely to work with individual expatriates and smaller organizations than would a larger firm.
Virtual relocation services offer online destination guides, details of expat service providers and information specific to the needs of expatriates, much as traditional agencies do. Online relocation services allow expatriates to research and explore the destination city in their own time and from the other side of the world if necessary. They can also offer an economic alternative to costly look-see visits – especially attractive to cost-conscious companies or self-employed individuals.
When choosing an agency, ask whom they have worked with in the past and for how long. Find out if they have ongoing contracts with well-known companies and also whom they have worked with that has requirements similar to your own. Their experience is important, too. Have they lived abroad themselves and do they understand the needs of expatriates from your culture? Large companies with many expatriates will have their own internal procedures to be followed by the relocation agency, so it is important to check how they will manage the paperwork requirements and reporting procedures.
On the other hand, individual expatriates and smaller companies will have to consider whether the demands of the larger clients of the agency will affect the quality of service that the agency can offer them.
Finally, ask if the agency requests feedback from their clients and whether it follows up with clients to see how successful their relocation programs have been. A company that seeks feedback and responds to the comments of its clients will be working towards providing the best service it can.