It's a strange reality we find ourselves in where employees, in increasing numbers, are hunkered down in remote offices, skipping those in-person meetings. And according to this article, this could very well be the new normal.

A question was recently posed in a customer success community about how to ensure quality customer success when forced to interact with clients in a virtual-only model. While this may be a new obstacle for some, it shouldn't be alarming. It should instead be viewed as a welcomed challenge to keep client relationships strong without the element of in-person interaction.

Thanks to modern virtual meeting technology it’s absolutely possible not only to keep client relationships strong but to make them stronger. But like any tool, it’s all in how you use it. Let’s explore.

Adapt to your communication environment

Video is perhaps the easiest and most effective way to foster strong client relationships when in-person meetings are not an option. But ensuring that meetings are productive and simply having the ability to see one another in a virtual environment are two different things.

To state it bluntly, you cannot treat a video meeting the same as you would an in-person meeting. Why? For starters, attempting to fit video meetings into the model of in-person meetings ignores a big factor – virtual meetings welcome significantly more distractions than in-person. Enter multitasking.

I predict that as the volume of video meetings increases, so does the volume of multitasking, which results in poor use of labor. Multitasking is code for not paying attention to the meeting.

This change of meeting settings requires a bit of adaptation. Given that video meetings differ just enough from in-person meetings, we need to properly prepare for this new environment to keep that meeting time productive.

As I reflect on my own experience with virtual meetings over the past seven and a half years as a remote worker, here are three ways we can ensure that time is well spent for all:

1. Require a meeting brief

The first step is to start requiring a meeting brief at least 2 hours before the meeting to ensure that the time spent on video meetings is productive. The brief at a minimum should cover:

  • The meeting agenda
  • Overall objective of the meeting
  • Additional necessary context to help all parties prepare
  • Any items that have been asked to be included by other participants

Yes writing a brief can be annoying, but in terms of cost and labor utilization, it’s more than worth the effort. Thirty minutes of extra effort from one person can cut an hour-long meeting in half for the entire group. I’m sure everyone will appreciate your efforts!

2. Minimize time spent in video meetings

Work-from-home employees have a wonderful opportunity to increase mindfulness and productivity while reducing stress. The time alone to think, dive into new projects, and digest workload is all thanks to a reduction in those in-office water cooler distractions. We shouldn’t throw all of that away attempting to match in-person meetings through video.

Aiming to minimize time spent in video meetings doesn’t mean that relationships have to suffer. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Cultivate relationships, keeping face-to-face communication when necessary, and maximize productivity all around as you commit to brief and succinct interactions that keep everyone on track. In my experience, the more time spent in video meetings (if you’re present in the meeting as opposed to multitasking) requires longer workdays to actually get the work done.

3. Offer alternative messaging options

Quick and easy ways for your customers to reach out are essential to keep communication flowing. Not everything requires a video conference but pushing the conversation to email can uncomfortably slow things down. Consider offering messaging or chat channels to clients to give them an easy way to connect for resolutions that don’t require a meeting or email.

In conclusion, given the proliferation of the work-from-home model rethinking our approach to video meetings is what we should all be doing to keep this time productive. With the ideas I’ve shared here, you can successfully adapt your approach to communication as opposed to attempting to fit video into the same mold as in-person meetings. As a result, you’ll see that quality relationship building and a productive use of everyone’s time can co-exist in the work-from-home model. On that note, enjoy stronger relationships with your clients.