How to forge and maintain relationships around the world

Working globally has become standard practice in 2021. Syft Analytics is the go-to financial reporting and analytics software for over 75,000 accountants, bookkeepers, and businesses all over the world. As a result, our team has become well acquainted with the regionalised stresses and preferences of our clients. We have managed to find a way to work productively not only across oceans, but across time zones. 

Among other changes, the pandemic has accelerated the rate at which we have all adapted to asynchronous work. However, we treat this as an opportunity, rather than an obstacle. Instead of feeling restricted by remote work and the need to make remote connections, the Syft team is encouraged by this newfound capacity to build a global network of connections. 

Extending like the tendrils of a great tapestry, our reach across the world has taken us further away from home than many of us have ever been in a physical sense… But how exactly do you build and maintain relationships with someone in another country? 

I spoke to some of the account executives and members of the Customer Success team at Syft and asked them about their best practices when it comes to communicating with clients around the world, remotely, to find out.

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Styles of communication

Our team has found that people from different regions tend to have different approaches to trying out or buying our product. They’ve had to adopt different ways of communicating with people from different places. For instance, we’ve found that clients from the United Kingdom tend to have a lot more questions before trying our software than clients from the United States do.

The client relationship is built in business development management, enforced in onboarding,  and maintained in client relationship management or customer success. But how do you go about this properly? Which form of digital communication works best and what’s the best approach?

1. Emails

Everybody knows the good, old-fashioned email. These can be a great way to let clients and prospective clients know about the latest features and any upcoming webinars or other events you have planned. However, email response is typically much slower than other forms of communication.

2. Video calls

These are far more personal than emails as you can see each other’s faces and hear each other’s voices. Video is vitally important in a time in which we are all so separated from other people. It’s also far easier to make a connection with someone in real time when they can see you sitting on the other end of the screen. Clients are more understanding when they can see that you are trying to help, and if you need more time to think of a solution to their problem, you can always email them later with additional information or a summary of your video chat – for closure, essentially. 

The great thing about a video call is that it can be quick and to the point – much more so than in-person meetings a lot of the time. As Sarah Broderick, from Connect4, remarked in one of our virtual meetings in our pod, in person meetings are fossil fuels while virtual meetings are sources of renewable energy. In terms of the energy needed to travel to a meeting, not to mention the energy required within an in-person meeting, you can conserve a lot of energy by scheduling regular, short, virtual sessions instead.  

3. Phone

Account executives at Syft have found that clients are often quite chatty over the phone. They appreciate you taking the time to call. And a good plan is always to end the call by asking for feedback, or asking if the client needs any more assistance.

4. Intercom 

Intercom is an instant form of written communication, which a lot of clients prefer to email because you get an instant response. We always have someone online, looking for questions posed on Intercom. For younger clients especially, Intercom is a great tool for quick communication.

5. Loom videos

Loom is another great platform for virtual communication. As Loom videos aren’t live, they give you a nice option in-between emails and video calls, where you can record your screen – and also your voice and face if you would like. This can serve as an instant message but with more of a personal touch, showing clients how to do the thing that they are struggling with in a simple way. This also shows that you really care about them as individuals, as you have taken the time to record a Loom video for them.

In-person client engagement vs. remote client engagement

The adjustment to a new global network has meant an adjustment to communicating with just your voice or the top half of your body. This means that you naturally rely upon words far more than you would in person. 

There’s less body language for you to pick up on (none at all over the phone, email, or Intercom), and it can be very easy to tune out when you are online. There’s a lot going on in the background, and even on your screen. Think of the notifications that might jump across your screen during a meeting, kids walking into the room, dogs barking, and so on.

Stress levels have also been high as a result of the pandemic, global socio-political events, and increased time spent working – and overworking – from home. Having your kids at home while you also work from home can be amusing and serve as a point of connection and understanding. However, this can also be a point of frustration and stress.

Best Practices for Video Meetings

The Syft team has conducted over 5000 video meetings this past year, including one-on-one meetings with clients and the many webinars that we run. Here are our top 4 best practices for video meetings.

  • In meetings, structure is very important. Meetings can be short. You need to go in with a plan and intention and stick to the point.
  • Being able to see people’s faces is very important in video meetings – for a sense of personal connection.
  • Finish meetings by asking if the client got what they needed. If not, fill the gap.
  • Don’t beat around the bush or be vague. Clarity leads to connection.

Kieran Lotze, Account Executive for the North American region has a clear and handy meeting plan that functions somewhat like the structure of an essay. It can be very useful to keep in mind for virtual meetings.

Kieran Lotze’s Meeting Plan

  1. Tell the client what you’re going to tell them
  2. Tell them
  3. Tell them what you’ve told them

These serve as an introduction, body, and conclusion effectively. Learn more about remote client engagement from our team in this video:

Remote work is here to stay, not just because of the pandemic, but because we live in a global society. And that is very exciting! I’ve had many meetings now with people from all around the world without even leaving my home city. I’ve collaborated with people over video calls, engaged with new platforms introduced to me on Loom, and even attended yoga classes run by a friend of mine who’s staying in South Korea. All from the comfort of home. 

At Syft, we are very fortunate to enjoy a global work experience, engaging with clients from a variety of different countries and cultures. From these encounters, we can leave you with some parting tips based off personal experience, namely: 

  • Pay attention to detail and intonation when you speak, 
  • Be personable and helpful, 
  • Have a plan and get to the point,
  • Keep in mind that people from different places may approach your product differently,
  • Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions, and
  • Remember to still give yourself a break.

I didn’t speak a lot about the last tip before, but it is a vital one. Working from home isn’t necessarily more relaxing than working from the office, even if you get to wear your slippers under the table. Staring at a screen or making phone calls all day can be exhausting. And, while work is important, so is your time off. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of your clients and bring your happiest, healthiest self to your desk every day.

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Alex Hoffman

Alex Hoffman

Alex Hoffman is the Engagement Manager at Syft Analytics. She writes the blog and works on various other aspects of content creation at Syft. Alex has a background in film and television, as well as English Literature. She enjoys writing helpful, educational, and entertaining articles for readers. Alex is also currently completing her Master’s in Creative Writing. She can be found in her natural habitat - a bookshop, café, or library - drinking tea and most likely reading. Alternatively, you can find her on LinkedIn.

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