In the past two months, every MSP has had to not only transform their own business into a remote-first company, but most of their clients have had to make the same transition in many parts of the world. And while we’ve banded together to make it through the emergency portion of the change quite well, we need a plan to operate effectively in the primarily remote world. How can we build / maintain personal relationships with our clients while being remote?
1. Use video
After spending extended time at home and having our teams work nearly all remote, video has replaced a lot of in-person interaction we’re used to having on a daily basis. And the surprising thing we’ve learned is that video is way better than a non-video conference call. The reason? Studies have shown that up to 55% of human communication is “non-verbal” and only 7% is word content (the balance is tone or intonation). So if we’re unable to see each other we’re missing out on over half of the information we’re trying to portray. This is one of the reasons conference calls suck.
We’re lucky enough now that video call services are ubiquitous, easy to use, and offer good quality video. Once we’re able to see each other we can connect more, see the non-verbal cues, and feel more engaged in the call. Because there are actual human faces, we can be more engaged, and have more productive session.
I recommend that you find ways to integrate video into your processes. This could be setting up video calls with clients to perform support, review vCIO Strategic Recommendations, or just a temperature check with the decision makers at your clients.
Another suggestion if you do regular site visits is to transform them into quick IT huddles with the client’s staff. This could be scheduled and would replace the typical “walk around” to check on everyone. This way your client’s staff gets to see that you’re available to assist them if needed.
2. Be deliberate
All of this upheaval will break old habits and force us to create new ones. We need to be cognizant about how we’re communicating with our clients and setting expectations. The good news is technology can help us with this.
First, you need to communicate how your service has changed as a result of any disruptions, how it may change in the future, and how those changes will affect the ways in which you delivered service in the past. As part of those changes, explain how you’re going to achieve the results you promised using new methods. For example:
Dear Ms. Client,
As you know, we send Wanda the Wonder Tech to your site on a monthly basis to perform proactive services under our agreement. Due to the current restrictions we’re unable to provide those services in-person at the current time. We’re modifying our delivery method so we can deliver the same value but do it in a way that is safe for everyone involved. Here are the steps we will be taking on your scheduled day:
1. Wanda will hold a brief 10-15 minute huddle with you via video call with to discuss our agenda for the day.
2. Wanda will be present in your Microsoft Teams channel for anyone that has questions during the day for her.
3. She will perform the regular proactive services as scheduled along with any additional tasks which have been assigned for the day.
4. At the end of the day, she will hold another 10 minute huddle via video call to provide a report on services completed, issues found, and items that need to roll over to the next scheduled day.
Please let me know that this acceptable and any questions you might have regarding our service changes.
The above example lists the changes we’re making, why we’re making them, and shows that we care about delivering what we promised. This is easily replicable to other customer interactions throughout our company. But the key here is deliberate communication before the fact so expectations can be set with the client. This is a much harder conversation AFTER the fact.
3. Join their channels
A lot of companies are now using Teams or Slack to communicate (most of it at our urging). Consider the value gained by having your team participate in their channels. Now, I understand that this can be challenging logistically but my suggestion is to have someone log on periodically to their channels to check-in. Many relationships are formed virtually, and chat system communication is one of the ways to keep a pulse on a company. Maybe if you have scheduled days with clients then you can have the engineer logon to their chat system and make sure people know they’re there. This way you get a highly visible presence and the client can see you’re available.
4. Personal emails
One last suggestion is to make a point everyday to send a personal email to a client. There doesn’t have to be an agenda or a template but more of a note to show you’re thinking about them. One great tool to use is called Soapbox which allows you to send short, personalized video emails. This is a great tool for digital presence and creates a human connection.
There’s a lot of uncertainty now about what life will look like in the future. But we can only control what we do and how we react to these events. If we adapt ourselves to these remote work conditions then we’ll have an easier time delivering value to our clients no matter what the future holds.
Stay safe friends,