How to maintain client relationships whilst working remotely.
As we have been hearing frequently over the last few weeks, we are living in unprecedented times.
Deep concerns surrounding the coronavirus outbreak have brought a phenomenal change in how we work – the traditional workplace has now shifted, almost overnight, to an overwhelming trend of working remotely as a precaution and stay safe. Most people, who are able to, are now working from home.
Advantages of working remotely have been discussed in the blog The rise of remote working – just a fad or here for good?, citing cost savings and a better work -life balance as key benefits.
But for those who spend most of their working time meeting clients face-to-face, how will the challenges of working remotely help them maintain a strong client or customer relationship?
Although we have previously identified ways in which people can make remote working a success in How to make remote working work, we now take it a step further and consider a few practices which may help build strong client relationships during such critical times.
Establish trust from the very beginning
Ethical behaviour in face-to-face sales begins with establishing trust and this is no different in a remote working environment. Without meeting in person, both the client and salesperson area at a disadvantage. So how can trust be developed? The key here is to ensure that your client feels part of the communication process and kept informed and updated as and when needed. Therefore, a solid and sincere approach towards the client from the start will enable two-way communication, on the one hand, allowing you to introduce and manage expectations and, on the other, allow the client to get involved in key discussions. Where you are demonstrating honesty, expertise and competency, you are in effect validating a foundation for a secure relationship.
Work with clients to build a communication plan
The inability to meet clients in person deems it necessary, particularly in the early stages, to organise regular communication. This is where project management comes in. Both parties will have to mutually agree on a plan in which you can communicate with your client. It is this communication which is vital in developing trust and strength in this relationship. Your client will be content in the knowledge that they can keep in contact with you.
A plan can be devised which outlines when you intend to communicate vis a vis a schedule plus how you intend to communicate, e.g. email, telephone or video call or online chat tools. Whichever communication channel is used, it should be one that your client is happy in using to avoid any potential complications or frustration. It is important for you as a business to listen to your clients and learn about their expectations so that you then be responsive and create value for them.
Clarify boundaries and deadlines
Forming and building upon a sales and customer relationship is a foundation for business success. However, you can only guarantee that you are on the right path by ensuring from the outset that clear expectations in terms of communication, requirements and responsibilities, and time-frames have been set. Both you and your client can have a better understanding of how you can work together without going above and beyond set limits. Setting and enforcing deadlines serves to motivate clients and helps keep your project going forward. Certain boundaries need to be considered such as taking into account different time zones if your client is based overseas. One should note that whist working remotely, it is not unusual for clients to request a call after 5pm because it may be convenient for them.
Whether you wish to build a formal or informal relationship or treat each client individually, how you set boundaries and deadlines whilst working remotely is your decision. But it is good business to be respectful and mindful of your clients as time is not always on their side. Sticking to schedules where possible and staying focused helps both your client and you.
Utilise technology to facilitate communication
Real time communication in a remote working relationship is not possible without technology. Being equipped with the right digital tools and software enables two-way communication between yourself and your client, especially long-distance clients.
Such tools can comprise accessible cloud-based document storage solutions and virtual meeting software, allowing both parties to keep up-to-date with developments.
Collaborative tools help simplify the sharing of information and scheduling of meetings.
The provision of multiple contact methods and communication channels will enable constructive project management for a strong and successful business relationship.
We should not underestimate the power of communication when working remotely. Although remote work presents many challenges, these can be overcome by ensuring you have a plan in place and strategies in line for regular communication. You are then all set to develop a successful long-term relationship with your client.
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