Unlike most other sectors, the software industry has survived the COVID-19 pandemic reasonably unscathed. In fact, with the coronavirus increasing our daily screen time by a third, and speeding up businesses adoption of digital technologies, the events of the pandemic have triggered some aspects of the software industry to perform better than previously.
However, there’s no denying that it turned our lives upside down. With remote work becoming a standard fare, we had to adjust numerous processes, including communication, as it became pretty obvious that businesses that want to survive COVID-19 must maintain consistent and relevant communication with customers throughout the pandemic.
That’s why I prepared a list of best practices, as well as challenges, to make it easier to communicate with your clients like a pro.
Client-Developer Communication During Pandemic
Software development has always been technology-forward so the sudden switch to remote work and online communication wasn’t so shocking. However, there’s no denying that the pandemic intensified the usage of videoconferencing tools and online chats.
Here are some tips on how to communicate openly and transparently with the client against all odds.
Even though it’s hard, and still unadvisable, to meet in person, it doesn’t mean that you and your client can’t meet face-to-face. After months of remote work, using videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts have become our bread and butter.
With the rise of these platforms, it’s way easier to keep everyone involved and engaged, as well as instil confidence in our work and competence. Through these check-ins, it’s possible to keep the clients updated, regularly collaborate with them to gather feedback, answer questions, and rapidly react to new information.
Generally, I would advise you to conduct these meetings early in the week. They should focus on any recent deliverables and the goals or priorities for the week ahead. At the end of the week, you should prepare a summary of everything you were able to accomplish.
It’s simply impossible to schedule all the conversations concerning the project. Sometimes, the communication needs to be ongoing, and sometimes you’ll just need a quick consultation. That’s why it’s so important to establish a channel of constant communication.
Utilising tools like Slack or Teams for discussions between official meetings allows your team to collaborate more effectively as they work through the development cycle. Whether you want to include your client directly into a discussion, or just share some elements of it through tools like Basecamp, is up to you. However, you must never underestimate the importance of your client’s input.
Using the open discussion, you’re able to collaborate, ensure that important information is being exchanged, and schedule calls when needed to walk through something more complex.
Remote work can give your customers a feeling of loss of control over the project. Even if you involve your clients into an ongoing communication, it may be important to prepare a scheduled system of meetings to keep them updated. The repeatability and consistency of these meetings or updates will give them a sense of security and organisation.
Sometimes, even a few minutes update can make the client feel comfortable. If the client needs a sense of security or a better understanding - a note about the daily tasks of each developer is also a good practice.
Of course, it may seem a little bit extensive. If you feel like there’s no need to send the updates so often, you may come up with your own schedule, depending on the needs and requirements of your clients.
If you want to master the art of remote communication with your client, you should try to avoid these common mistakes.
Excluding the Client
As I mentioned before, in the times of remote work, there’s nothing more important than keeping your client engaged and informed. Lack of transparent communication may have disastrous consequences not only on the project but also on your company’s reputation and your client’s trust.
The client needs to participate in the process to have a clear understanding of your work, as well as progress or possible challenges along the way. Also, be being regularly updated, they support you with solutions and ideas you would never think of.
Email Project Details
Email is a good communication tool, but it’s not perfect for project-related communication. Emails tend to be exchanged between individuals and don’t include the entire team, leaving some members out of the loop. Things like feature requests and bugs tend to fall through the cracks and conversations become lost when not shared through tools like Basecamp, Slack or Teams.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against emailing; it can be great for defining and sending requirements. However, using only e-mails for project-related communications is not the best idea.
On top of that, believe me, finding important information in the labyrinth of emails can be extremely frustrating not only for you, but also for your client. Therefore, for the sake of transparency of communication, all the arrangements from e-mails should go to the product backlog, where under each requirement there are transparent comments and notes on the approval.
As you can see from applying remote communication best practices, it’s possible to build trust, keep your client updated, and communicate clearly about expectations and progress.
Even though at first sight it may seem troublesome and irritating, with the right schedule and mutual respect, you and your client can establish transparent and valuable communication.