Four steps to a successful, remote working relationship

Follow our quick guide on how to build trust with your client, wherever you are.

By Emma Flynn

Thanks to increased accessibility, remote working is becoming increasingly popular. Drawing from our experiences with overseas clients, here are our top tips on how to create successful, remote working relationships.

  1. Nail your communication

Communication is vital to any successful relationship, but it’s even more important for remote working relationships where there’s a lack of face-to-face interaction. Without visual cues, it’s harder to recognise when someone is confused, or has misunderstood a requirement or idea. This can lead to issues surfacing later in the project, which may be costly and time-consuming to fix. The key is to establish frequent and honest communication that builds trust and project transparency.

Some communication ground rules

  • Always keep communication clear, concise, and to the point
  • Communicate enough to keep your client feeling comfortable with the progress, but not so much that it feels like spam
  • Optimise your communication channels – for example: video calls work well for stand ups and group idea sharing, emails are great for clarifying expectations, chat is brilliant for quick questions

How to avoid miscommunication:

  • Take time to pause and allow for questions and comments – this is especially important in group meetings where multiple people are sharing ideas and opinions
  • Double check everyone understands what has been described – don’t automatically assume everyone is on the same page
  • Get feedback to make sure everyone is in agreement about features and requirements. Taking a few extra minutes to sense-check expectations at the beginning will save you headaches down the line.

Top tip

Use Google sheets (or equivalent) to create a collaborative ‘Question Log’. This gives you a centralised place for all parties to view, ask, and answer questions throughout the project.

  1. Manage expectations

We all know how important it is to clearly communicate deadlines, milestones and project  deliverables. But this becomes even more crucial when you’re working remotely and the client can’t see what you’re doing each day. Setting and managing expectations helps build and maintain strong relationships and prevents any nasty surprises or disappointments. This needs to be done at every stage of the project.

Before the project starts

  • Provide a detailed scope of work, highlighting exactly what is included in the project. This way if clients ask for something that isn’t in scope, you have proof explaining why
  • Describe what is out of scope. This lets you call attention to features or requirements which won’t be addressed
  • Set any milestones and deadlines to be met throughout the project so the client can see the progress

During the project

  • Use stand ups and progress reports to let the client know where you are with the project
  • Celebrate milestones – if the whole team is working remotely, it helps to keep up team morale by acknowledging project milestones
  • Let the client know if any issues arise that might affect deliverables

Top tip

Set objectives and deliverables for each sprint so your client always knows what you’re working on and what outcomes to expect.

  1. Use documentation

Unsure how to explain or present complex user flows to a variety of stakeholders? Try using design outputs or general documentation. These might take a while to generate, but can save time in the long run as they help identify issues or misinterpretations between parties early on.

Benefits of documentation

  • Design outputs are an effective way to help describe your thought process, illustrate decisions made, and the steps taken to come up with a solution
  • They can work as natural checkpoints
  • They can be used as a platform for positive and constructive discussion and development, letting you resolve issues before they become a problem
  • Sharing documentation while in progress (e.g. through ‘Google Office Suite’) engages clients, allowing them to contribute to and collaborate on the project

Top tip

Use design outputs as milestones to support the end of a sprint, which can be approved and signed off by the clients.

  1. Make meetings count

As we touched upon in point 1, video or conference style calls are brilliant for group conversations between stakeholders and the team. You can share your screen to show what you have been working on, which helps with transparency and provides an opportunity for feedback and discussion.

However when multiple people are involved, it can become ‘noisy’. It’s important to have all the right people at the meeting, but you don’t want a situation where everyone is talking over each other. When this happens, it’s easy to get confused and either not make decisions, or make the wrong decisions.

This is where a meeting host comes in.

Role of a meeting host

  • Outline the agenda and what you need to cover during the meeting
  • Help to keep the discussion on track and ensure everyone is heard
  • Summarise outcomes of major discussions, at the end of each discussion – so everyone can continue knowing what has just been agreed
  • Conclude the meeting with a summary of all the agreed action points and updates

Top tip

If there are 3 or more people on the call, encourage participants to say their name before they speak (i.e. Sophie here,…). This helps to avoid confusion over who is making what point, and identifies who is contributing a lot and who is silent.

We hope these guidelines help you build stronger remote working relationships with your clients and steer you clear of any major problems or miscommunication.

Do you have any great tips to add to the list? Let us know at info@newtidea.com

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