How to work with clients remotely: Best practices
As we settle into a new era of business operations, Mats Guldbrand explains how the team at Ericsson Studio Unboxed is working with clients remotely, and building better interactions and experiences with customers all over the world. Business as usual? Not quite, but here are his best practice solutions.
I’m now into my thirteenth week of working from home, otherwise known as the kitchen table. Normally, working face-to-face with customers and other visitors to the Ericsson Studio Unboxed, it sure is a big change. But even if I can’t meet our customers in person, we at the Ericsson HQ customer experience center have managed to keep interactions going with our customers from all around the world.
The world is facing a challenge never seen before in our lifetime – there’s no need for me tell you what’s going on. Where this will end up is still uncertain, but there’s one thing that’s been happening over the last thirteen weeks that will change the way we undertake social interactions forever: the rise of the digital or hybrid customer interaction.
Building better customer experiences
So how is our customer experience center business working without conventional physical meetings? We can no longer meet a customer for a full week of company presentations, so our interactions are now much shorter. But the way we we plan, book, moderate, demonstrate our solutions and execute meetings is more or less the same. We meet in a digital world, with shorter and more focused agendas than normal. We can also have a new meeting the following day or the following week on the next topic or another focus point instead. There’s no need to squeeze all topics into three days and go to dinner in beautiful Stockholm afterwards – albeit that will return one day.
We’ve also held global digital broadcasts this month for multiple customers simultaneously, which have been hosted from Ericsson HQ in Stockholm. The broadcasts included live interactions and chats with our executives and subject matter experts from their home offices. They can still be viewed online where we also have a social series broadcast program, which covers the hot discussion topics of the moment.
I sincerely believe that we all need to maintain social interactions to continue to keep the world at peace and in business. And the last weeks have shown that we can still carry out business operations without meetings taking place in a physical form, at least in our particular industry. Online meetings on a variety of digital platforms have stepped in where before we met in person. But whatever solution we use, it all comes down to one thing: the world has never been so dependent on communication over a well performing network.
In his blog post Why network quality is more important than ever, President and CEO Börje Ekholm elaborates on the importance of a well performing network. When studying the so-called industry Frontrunners, we can see that the best performing service providers, with the most optimized network, see a 31 percent higher ARPU. Network quality matters, and with more and more meetings taking place online, it’s more important than ever.
Even if network quality is the most important thing, we’re all still learning how to be better at working remotely and interacting with impact in online meetings. At the Ericsson Studio Unboxed, we’re now training for effective digital meetings from leading industry experts. This space is not only for bloggers and vloggers anymore, but can be used as a business setting. Yes, there are still bad wifi connections out there, and almost everyone remembers to put their microphone on mute before the meeting starts, but we’re certainly evolving to a new normal of effective digital communications for all.
Build the agenda
We’ve developed new ways of working to do more or less the same job as before – only digital, in less time and with more impact. When a customer wants to meet the experts and management at Ericsson, this can happen just as before. We start in the same way, by interacting with the local team that knows the customer best. We plan an agenda that lasts for a maximum of three hours (by now you all know that a longer online meeting can be challenging to stay engaged). Feedback has been really positive to this new customer experience and they say we’ve kept them interested while answering their key business needs and questions.
Ericsson is a truly global company, and our employees around the world keep interactions going with customers in every corner of the globe. But beyond our customer experience centers, we still need maintenance and upgrades to be done to keep the network services running, as we’ve shown in a video series from the US called Keep America Running.
Schools, business, hospitals and we as citizens depend on good network connections. There’s no question in my mind that without a good communications network operating when and where we need it most, the impact of Covid-19 on society could have been a lot worse.
The technological challenges of working with clients remotely
Once we’ve created an agenda and decided a date, we also need to agree on the platform for our online meeting. Ericsson, like most of our customers, have strict security rules to comply to, and sometimes solutions we accept are not standard tools for the customer. To create a meeting with our customers always involves some IT security questions that need to be considered. But, even if we agree on the platform, we can’t affect the home network of the person we’re inviting to the meeting. That’s why we often ask that the presenter broadcasts with video, not everyone in the meeting. This means we conserve bandwidth to maintain quality and avoid disturbances.
Of course, we’ve worked to overcome all the technological challenges that we’ve seen – we are a telecoms company after all. But it is not as easy as it seems. All meetings are treated as confidential, and we need to make sure they stay that way.
The Studio Unboxed team (who normally work with interaction with the customer when they come to Sweden) not only build the agenda and contact all relevant speakers. We also act as a facilitator during the whole meeting – keeping the meeting on track and on time is even more important when you have a digital meeting. You can’t expect speakers to accept a shorter timeslot if the previous speaker spent too long on theirs! It’s valid in a traditional meeting, but even more so if it’s digital!
But what about demos? Demonstrations of the latest technology and business solutions are a crucial part of understanding of our products and what they can do. What about Life of a car, spectrum sharing, 5G gaming or just an update on the latest and greatest when it comes to Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC)?
I mentioned the video broadcasts Ericsson has been doing above. The customer demo is very similar to this. We mix live presentations and demos with pre-recorded content to create a great experience for our customers.
Business – and pleasure!
I mentioned that our agendas now are a lot shorter than when we meet in person, skipping the dinner afterwards, for example. But maybe that can also be arranged?
My brother was invited to a dinner party recently. Not a physical one, but a digital one. The hosts packed a box of food and sent it to my brother and some of their friends with instructions on how to make the food and arrange it on the plates. They even packed a bottle of cava for the occasion!
My brother and the other guests spent the evening playing online games, but they also discussed the food and wine – everyone was having the same thing! You can have a glimpse of the evening on this Google Translated web page (the translation is quite good, so feel free to copy their setup). The hosts are very good friends of mine too, so my hope is for a box full of food and cava in the mail any day now…
Ericsson founder Lars-Magnus Ericsson had a vision when he founded the company in 1876. In his own words, “Communication is a basic human need.” This is as true now as it is in any other time in our history. At Ericsson, we’ll continue to honor his vision to make sure the world can continue to collaborate, operate and recover from these challenging times as fast as it can. Whether it’s through business or pleasure! And even if the Ericsson Studio Unboxed is empty, with no people around, we are open for business. Not business as usual, but business in unusual times!
Read our blog post on how to manage teams remotely.
Read the message from our CEO Börje Ekholm on Ericsson’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Read our alternative 10 working from home tips from a HR expert and digital mentor.
How will our relationship with the digital world evolve in the future? Read our ConsumerLab report to find out.