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How to build trust and maintain professional relationships in a virtual environment?

Author: Anna Dyda

As human beings, we rely on strong relationships in order to achieve our personal happiness. As multiple studies suggest, relationships impact us both mentally and physically. It is no different in the business world. There is no denying the communication between customers and vendors, clients and suppliers had to change due to lockdown and omnipresent restrictions. What did not change, however, is the need to build trust in order to implement projects and achieve our goals.

Healthy business-to-business relationships, based on partnership, lead to line growth, stability, and overall sustainability as an organization. Moreover, as in case of personal relationships, a successful business relationship is built on a foundation of core virtues, such as transparency, accountability and trust.

How to build trust and maintain relationships in a business context, especially in this new reality? What you need is a strategy and…the right people.

Be communicative, show respect and offer value

On your team you need to have people, who will work towards ensuring the highest quality of the delivery of services to Customer. Depending on the services and the industry, delivery can be perceived variously – it may be, for example, ensured through tracking progress and KPIs, managing budgets, people and projects. Even though the form of service might have changed because of Coronavirus outbreak, the essence of it remains the same.

What is universal, and crucial in general, is maintaining a long-lasting relationship, in form of acting on feedback, catch-up meetings etc. Moreover, despite of the industry, in order to build a successful relationship with Customers, one needs to be well informed about various internal and external processes that affect such relationships. That cannot be done without excellent cooperation between various teams and departments within the company – i.a. Delivery, Sales. It is what makes such communication possible. Without it, the work for the Customer could be affected.

The foundation of trust

What is important, is first setting a foundation of trust.  Trust is a reciprocal behavior to what Customers receive and can’t be forced. How to achieve it? Building trust is a long-term process of bringing value to the customer and realizing this value. Trust means partnership. If we build trust, we can embed the gained knowledge and understanding of the customer strategy.

One may say, that understanding the needs of both – Customers and various teams inside the company – lays at the bottom of all actions. Hence, building long-lasting relationships is the absolute core. How to do it effectively?

Communication – go all out

Establishing a new relationship can be a real challenge. It is even more difficult when you cannot meet in person. Here, a good communication within the company, often between various team, is essential. One should be well informed about the contacts made by other team members. Our customers need to be aware that there is more than one contact person who is more than willing to assist in, for instance, building a new team.

Build trust in the virtual world

How to achieve it in a virtual environment? There really are many technological solutions at our disposal. E-mails, video messages, phone-calls, virtual meetings – there is a plethora of options nowadays. During the first meetings, the priority should be put on listening in order to fully understand the needs of the Customer. Then, during the next (regular!) meetings – weekly / monthly catch-up calls, follow-ups, get to know the customer as well as possible.

One of the biggest challenges people have been reporting after switching to full time remote work is the sudden fusion of work and private life. We have all probably had at least one meeting when kids, dogs or cats invaded the virtual conference room. While it is stressful for our interlocutor, it also forces us to look at them differently, not only in the context of their position and function.

Turn your camera on

If it is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, face-to-face communication is worth at least a million! Even though not everybody feels comfortable in front of a camera (and we have to take it in the consideration) as they feel self-conscious and experience “video call fatigue”, a new term coined by psychologists, there is no better way to get to know each other. As we can see ourselves on the screen, we focus on our “performance”, which in the long run is stressful and tiring. A simple solution is to hide your own window and focus on the other person. During the video call with the customers you see their facial expressions, hear the emotion in their voice. You’re really able to connect with them. It is extremely important especially when getting to know new people. Physically seeing people and interacting with them over video does create authentic connections.

Communication in virtual world

Communication in the virtual world

Communicate with your team

As listening is the key to understanding the goals of each Customer, team and teammate, one has to also be able to cooperate with several teams within the organization, often connecting the Delivery and Sales teams so it is essential to understand the current status of every given process. Sometimes, there are no results because there are problems people can’t solve on their own. Frankly, solving problems is a good bonding opportunity, but speaking about it is crucial. Being honest with each other really helps to facilitate closing the process. Understanding that we are one team and we are all here to help, really makes a difference. Makes teammates more engaged and generally, confident about the work they do.

All in all, being able to build trust and successful relationships with Customers is beneficial for both parties. Though there is obviously such a thing as overcommunication, in general the more you talk to each other, the better. Don’t ever let them in the dark and be transparent about issues or problems.

It requires being flexible in terms of adjusting to changing circumstances on a daily basis. In the last few months most of us experienced it first-hand as we had to find a way to connect with our customers, partners and colleagues in a virtual environment.

 

This article was written in cooperation with Marta Dębska, NATEK Service Delivery in Warsaw and Jozef Biacovsky, Service Delivery Manager from NATEK Kosice DC. At NATEK, our Service Delivery Managers are responsible for building and maintaining long-lasting relationships. Depending on the location or assigned project, their role may vary but they always play a significant role, acting as a bridge between our clients and delivery teams .

Check our other articles on the effects of the recent pandemic on business and communication. Click here to read about digital transformation in times of pandemic.

Anna Dyda

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