As a Technical Account Manager at Extensis, a central part of my role is the delivery of Integration and Consulting Services to our customers around the world. Normally, I would meet with our customers at their office to guide them in deploying Extensis solutions on their network. This makes it much easier for them to achieve their success outcomes, and it lets us build a stronger relationship with their teams.
But what happens when travel becomes impossible? This is our new normal as COVID-19 advances across the globe. All of us need to do our part to stay healthy for the sake of our communities. This means I can’t travel on-site for client visits. Similarly, our clients are not in any position to receive visitors. Meanwhile, their IT departments are frantically doing their best to make sure everyone has what they need in their new remote work setup.
All of this means travel is completely off the table, indefinitely. Therefore, I need to be creative in how I deliver Integration and Consulting Services to Extensis clients.
Fortunately, we’re ready and willing to adapt our work to these new conditions. I’ve recently delivered services remotely for some of our customers in Africa and the Middle-East. And we’re set up to do it for anyone, anywhere in the world. With that in mind, I thought I’d share the 3 key elements that allow us to deliver remote services plus some of our favorite tools for collaboration.
One of the most important elements of any business relationship is communication. Before March 2020 a quick phone call was sufficient to discuss urgent questions. For more in-depth discussions with multiple stakeholders, we often scheduled conference calls. But with the onset of COVID-19, we have come to rely on video calls more and more. During these rapidly evolving times, we crave connection. And these technologies are the best way to connect with our customers. Research has shown that nonverbal communication can be 90% more important than any accompanying spoken word. This explains the huge surge of interest in video conferencing technology over the last few weeks.
I prefer video conference calling over audio-only calls because it feels much more personal, and it’s the best way to put a face to a name. We can form much stronger connections with our clients when we can see them and they can see us. This is one of the cornerstones of customer success.
I have installed various applications on my laptop as a result of customer requests to join their video conference systems. These solutions include:
For the past year, the Extensis team has run video conference calls on Zoom. Sound quality varies when using internet calls, but most video conferencing systems typically support some sort of phone dial-in option, with local numbers for many countries so you won’t need to make an expensive international call.
When I can see who I’m talking with, that makes everything better. But this is just the beginning. If I want to deliver the best Integration and Consulting Services, I also need to see what’s going on with our clients’ systems. All of the video conference calling solutions I’ve mentioned allow for different types of screen sharing, so any attendee can temporarily become the host and let everyone else see what they see. With permission granted, some video conference solutions also allow for remote access. I often find it’s easier to ask questions and let the client show me their machine, but sometimes there’s no other way to get to the root of a problem.
On most installs – even on-site – we don’t need to access a physical server with a keyboard and monitor attached. In the vast majority of cases we use remote desktop tools to log onto the client’s server. These tools are part of the operating system, so you need to be on a machine on the client’s network. That’s easy when you visit them at their office, but it becomes impractical when you can’t travel.
This is where we need VPN and security tools to connect to our client’s network. Solutions like the following make this process simple and easy to manage:
Some of our customers even got me to install a few security apps on my smartphone to ensure I’m authorized to log in to their network. There are several apps you can use for this, including Vasco Digipass and RSA SecurID. With these apps, clients can manage access to their systems so Technical Account Managers like me can only see what they want us to see — exactly the way it should be.
It’s definitely a different approach: delivering Integration and Consulting Services entirely remotely vs traveling to meet a customer on-site. I’m grateful that Extensis has made the switch so easy for our team, and I’m excited to talk with customers who have adapted their operations in the face of ongoing uncertainty.
Now when I reach out to our clients, they’re glad to talk with me for two reasons. First, we’ve built up our professional relationship for quite some time, and it always feels good to address challenges and identify new opportunities where we can improve their business. But recently our calls have taken on a whole new meaning. In the midst of COVID-19, we want to know how everyone is doing because we genuinely care about each other as individuals, and not just because we work together. While coronavirus has impacted so many elements of our society, in many ways it has also brought us closer together. All the technologies I mentioned have made connecting one-on-one more personal, and I hope we can preserve these strong connections in the future.
During the current situation with COVID-19, we will continue to provide the best possible customer experience while practicing safe social distancing. Stay healthy everyone! We’re all in this together.