Chapter 4: Virtual Operations
With most offices and businesses transitioning to fully remote during this crisis, you may be finding yourself in need of a quick-to-implement process. Luckily, there are a few tools that you can utilize to keep your business running, your customers happy, and your team productive.
Running a remote workforce requires:
- Systems and tools to run all your departments remotely
- Remote work management
- Productivity tracking
- Consistent client and internal communications
Client Communication Tools
Email + Loom
We talked about how great Loom is in the earlier chapters. But we can’t stress enough how, during uncertain times, seeing the person delivering the message is responded in a more positive way than just a toneless email. Including a Loom video in your email, even if it’s just a quick 30 second video to check in and say hello, sets you apart from the rest of their contacts. And it also makes them more comfortable knowing you’re creating something custom and personal just for them. Let your guard down and woo them.
Social media, no matter the platform, is a great space to be transparent. That message you emailed your customers, send it out on social media so someone who may not have been included on that email thread can see your policy update. If you have a team working from home, showcase them at their desk with their dog on their lap. Even if that desk is in the kitchen. Everyone is trying to find their way in this new environment, showing that you and your team are in the same boat makes you relatable and honest.
Social media is also a great place to share relevant articles you’ve found that have helped you during this time. Maybe that’s a funny meme you saw that can take someone’s mind off the news for a minute. Or maybe it’s sharing InThink’s helpful webinar series!
Stay in touch and transparent on social media for customers and prospects alike.
Zoom for customer and client meetings
(This is also great for internal communication for the same reasons)
Phone calls are alright for quick client discussions, but the benefit of a Zoom meeting is seeing your customer’s face, letting them see yours (and maybe even meet your kids!), and most of all the screen sharing aspect. With every meeting there should be an agenda. And with the distractions and sometimes disorganization from working at home this is more true than ever. Always send out an agenda prior to customer calls and share your screen to bring it up so everyone on the Zoom call can see it and stay on task.
The record feature on Zoom is also great. Maybe someone on your team had to miss the call’ now you can record it and send it to them to listen to later. It’s also great if you’re discussing strategy or business details that may be useful to review later when you’re building out the assets or strategy.
Calls are okay, Zoom meetings are ideal.
Krisp is the world’s best AI-powered noise cancelling technology that adapts to your voice and improves over time. You can use it with almost any device, you simply press a button and immediately your kids are completely “quiet”. If only we had a non-virtual version of this… or is that called Peppa Pig?
This tool works both ways as well, you can mute your background noise but you can also mute your customer’s background noise. It’s a great professional tool to remove distractions and keep the meeting moving. Of course, you will still hear your dog bark on your end… until the UPS delivery man leaves your driveway anyways.
Client Communication Tools
At InThink, we try to limit our communication via email as much as possible. Most of the email communication is mainly meant for client-facing communication. We do sometimes FWD over helpful articles, webinars to sign up for, and tips the team may be interested in. But the best internal communication is… (drum roll please.)
Slack is by far the best way to communicate with your team. If you’re still trying to use Google Hangouts you’re doing it wrong. Slack provides a place to strategize about client accounts with a group of people, discuss a task with the person assigned to it, and to virtually hang out at the water cooler with your whole team.
InThink’s team uses it to share memes, move projects and tasks along, and keep the appropriate people in the loop. It removes the excessive communication to team members that aren’t needed so everyone can focus on their work and be included when needed.
Why we love Slack: It’s free! AND it integrates with so many apps, including Asana, Typeform, and Google Drive.
InThink Hack: You can even create a channel and invite the client into it. They won’t be able to see any other communication except that channel and you can directly chat with them quickly and easily.
Toggl is simple, easy and integrated which is all you need with a time tracking app. The problem most people have when it comes to time tracking is taking the time out of their day to actually track the time. Toggle has a browser extension and places an icon in your email, in most project management systems, in Slack, etc. You can turn it on and off from almost all the platforms you’ll be working in. All you have to do is add the clients you work on in the system and it will automatically generate the task based on the platform you turned it on in. At the end of the pay period, you simply export your time and it breaks it down by client, project, and task. So you ensure your team is always on-task and spending the appropriate amount of time on what they’re working on.
There are a ton of project management systems out there.
Teamwork, Monday, Jira, Wrike, Basecamp, Trello, Zoho Projects, WorkBook, Smartsheet, SCoro, just to name a few.
Our team functions best using Asana. It’s quick and easy to set up for times like this where you find yourself working virtually and quickly needing a solution. The rainbow unicorns that fly across the screen when you complete a task are just an added bonus!
Project management software is essential in keeping your team organized. Asana is broken down by “Teams” > “Projects” > “Tasks” > “Subtasks”. At InThink, our “Teams” are made up of clients and internal departments. Our “Projects” include individual campaigns, website projects, content calendars, to name a few. “Tasks” and “Subtasks” act as checklists for our team to complete.
We take full advantage of Asana’s pre-made templates, and the ability to create our own customized templates. We use these to easily “drop and go” when we have a new client sign on. Our commonly used templates include:
- New Client Onboarding
- New Hire Onboarding
- Marketing Campaign
- InThink GrowthPlan©
If you’re forced to make the switch to digital project management, this is a great time to evaluate your current processes and eliminate bottlenecking.
Above keeping tasks organized, project management tools can help you resource plan. Asana offers great gantt views where you can see all of your projects in one place – when they are starting, and when they are expected to end. This way you can quickly monitor what projects are on-track, at-risk, or off-track. Another great feature of Asana is their “Workload Portfolio”. Here you can see what team members may be overloaded, and who some of that work can be transferred to. Our Project Managers use this tool to proactively create realistic timelines for projects.
InThink Hack: Take advantage of customizing “Rules” and “Fields” in projects. Rules allow you to automate assigning tasks, for example. Fields let you set priority or task progress.
Question and Answer Time!
Q: How do we keep the team together in unison to project our common communications?
A: Set clear guidelines for how you’re using virtual communication tools, and get specific. We use email for client-facing communication and formal documentation; while we use Slack for daily quick interactions. We go a step further and break down what each Slack channel is specifically used for.
Q: How do I quickly train my team on a new project management tool?
A: Our suggestion – assign one person (or a small team) the task of setting up the platform. Create best practices for creating tasks, communicating in the platform, etc. to make sure everyone starts off on the same page. Then hold a few team training sessions.Take full advantage of the Asana Community Forum – it’s a tremendous resource, and you’ll get an answer within just a few hours.
What are you waiting for?
Schedule a quick no-commitment consultation call with us to discuss your business goals and see if we’re the right partner. We may not be a fit for everybody, but we do want you to get the award-winning service you deserve.