A couple of months ago I answered a question in a business forum relating to keeping customers engaged and loved up while working remotely or in an environment such as online sales.
Besides thinking about what it is we do it prompted me to think why we do what we do, and how can we do this better?
While years ago we would have taken files home on a USB, had them emailed to us or logged into a VPN (virtual private network), advances in technology means we can now simply open our laptops and work anywhere in the world with immediate access to all the information we require.
A quick Google search will reveal the hundreds, if not thousands of tools available to us, still, as with any tools it is how you use them, the strategy you apply and your actions around that strategy that really make the difference.
Despite what business you are in it's the relationship you have with your customers (both internal and external) that ultimately drives your business and matters most. Relationships is strategy and with all relationships Communication is key. With this as our focus point, all the tools we use revolve around how we can best communicate with our clients and each other.
Written communication is just words on a screen, despite this they can be interpreted in a myriad of ways depending on the state of the reader. Are they having a good or a bad day, are they rushed when reading it - the human condition plays a major role.
Never underestimate the power of a phone call, in saving time and avoiding misunderstanding.
I like to think of communication in order of priority, firstly face to face in person, then Skype, followed by the phone. Text and email come next followed up by project management software.
Working Remote can be as simple as working from home in the same city as your office, for others, it raises the issues of different time zones and the ability to organise meetings that are good for everyone.
Online time clocks are great to navigate meeting times across various time zones. Meeting planners and calendars that generate links to send to others so they can schedule meetings according to their convenience are also valuable.Â
Tip - If you travel regularly to multiple locations like I do, when booking your own appointments always use the time zone function in your chosen calendar.
There are many good schedulers on the market so do your research. What I love about an online meeting scheduler is that it takes care of emails and phone calls back and forward in setting the meeting and then sends everyone attending it prompt emails or texts as reminders of their attendance. Missed meetings and communication in a long distance relationship is the kiss of death.
If Relationships is your strategy then alongside communication, flexibility needs to be a priority. Flexibility of workstyle allows you to work across the whole of a 24 hour period, not so great if you like the structure of a 9-5 day however, if you thrive on variety and the ability to schedule your work around your natural peak productivity times then it is perfect.
Take into consideration how those you are communicating with like to work too - relationships are a two way street. Disappointment arises when unmet expectations occur. Clarity with your team and clients on when, who, what and how is essential. When everyone is on the "same page" and expectations are clear the gap for miscommunication is shortened.
Using project management software that allows you to share with your team and clients, allocate tasks, set deadlines and create discussion around projects will go a long way in knowing who is doing what when.
In summary, no matter what tools you are using to engage your team and clients when working away from the office, the rules of relationships will always apply and Communication, Flexibility and Clear Expectations are key.