All of us have been learning new ways to do business this year due to wonderful pandemic called COVID-19. As this turns out to be a much longer timeframe than initially thought to be at the beginning of the year, we are seeing more and more teams working remotely and seeing more virtual collaboration between both teams and clients.
We have always been a remote working company, but the interesting thing is we usually worked with people that were actually in offices. So many times, our meetings were done either by meeting in person, with a group, or by phone with a whole group on the other end. What’s new is that now many of our client’s offices are working remotely as well. We are seeing some clients adjusting to this much better than others, but the biggest thing that we have noticed is the psychological pull that people have to get together. The day to day interaction that they normally get at the office is not there, the water cooler gossip is missing. And wether people want to own up to it or not, it is happening because we are spending much more time on virtual conferences or phone conversations, where before an email and collaboration software conversation was sufficient to keep the meetings at a minimum and productivity moving further. So how do we get our clients to adjust to things we have already adjusted to so that we can still meet target dates? Here are a few things we have learned and use to accomplish just that:
1. Communication is key
Make sure you respond to inquiries or questions quickly. Keep the client informed even if there is nothing to report for whatever reason and especially if something is delayed. This lets the customer know they have not been forgotten. And always be honest, we have found a customer is much more forgiving if you tell them the truth (I am under a deadline on another project and was unable to get to this until next week) than if you ignore them or give them the expectation of it being done quickly and then it does not happen.
2. Keep your task lists and status current
Using collaboration software that allows you to set up your clients and control their access allows them to check statuses without interrupting your workflow. Let them see the main tasks and comment on them so they know where each task is at and that you have been working on them. They don’t need to see every small task, some things need to be kept in your teams’ control, but the big ones that they feel are important keeps them informed and feeling good about your progress.
3. Make your client feel special and useful
If I have to say the most important thing I have learned over the years is that people like to teach you about their work. So, let them. Ask questions about it when you are in virtual meetings, let them show you examples. Learn from them as this helps you to provide a better product for your client as you begin to understand their needs better. This also makes the client feel as if they have taken you under their wing and then they feel more invested with you.
4. Schedule regular progress update meetings
Having a regular scheduled update meeting tends to keep the random unneeded ones off the table. Many times your client team will resist asking for updates when they know there is a meeting already scheduled that they can to ask whatever question is on their mind. This allows you time to work on the next target goal so you have something to show them, and more polished communication since you’ll have time to prepare for it.
I hope these tips will help you navigate this new world we are in. They are small things but can help tremendously with productivity. I always get so frustrated when I have to tell a client I am behind because I have been pulled into many meetings just to go over updates and status work instead of actually being productive. Meetings are helpful, don’t get me wrong, getting information to move the project forward mostly comes from these. But having them on your terms and timing will help you get things done and keep both your sanity and your clients happiness in check.
Stay safe out there!