Before Customer Success even existed, ESG already had a long history of robust experience in customer education – selling and operationalizing training sessions for some of the country’s largest software companies. As technology evolved, so did training modalities – moving from primarily in-person instructor led to include virtual training and on-demand options.
Through this experience, we’ve learned that remote trainings and meetings don’t have to be less effective than in-person sessions! Whether you’re training customers, onboarding your newest awesome CSMs, or working on a project with your coworkers, here are some of my top tips for making sure your remote session runs smoothly.
1. Standardize your tools and software
Effective internal communication within your company will drive effective external, client facing communications and meetings as well. Whether it’s Slack, Skype, or Zoom, be sure you can communicate with your team members effectively and in a timely manner. This is especially important if you collaborate on multiple accounts or across multiple teams.
2. Send reference materials ahead of time
When you schedule a meeting or training session, send over any and all relevant documentation or resources that you’ll be reviewing on your call ahead of time. This gives your client time to digest the content or prepare any questions they may have and enables them to be more engaged during your time spent (virtually) together. Plus, if you run into any technology issues during the session, they can always refer back to your email.
3. Set a firm agenda and define objectives ahead of your virtual training session
If you don’t typically conduct remote sessions, you’ll want to make sure your client still feels they’re getting the same value from the sessions as they would get at an in-person meeting. Sharing a proposed meeting agenda or training plan several days before meeting can help your client feel more comfortable with the remote session and will give them time to come up with questions or additions to the proposed agenda topics. Each remote session should have a specific desired outcome or goal that you and your client have agreed upon before meeting. When you start your remote session, begin by reviewing the proposed agenda and ask your client if there is anything they would like to change or add to the list! I’ve found that using a tool like Smartsheet is very helpful for planning and tracking the progress of your remote sessions over time.
4. Be sensitive to technology challenges
If your client doesn’t typically join remote meetings, try to be empathetic and sensitive to technology woes they may be experiencing, even if it’s something that you wouldn’t think twice about. For instance, some remote meeting platforms require you to download something onto your computer or install an application on your phone. Many folks that are new to working remotely do not have the ability to download to their work computer and some may not even have smartphones. Sending your discussion materials/agenda ahead of time and providing a dial-in option when available can help ease these pain points.
5. Utilize your chosen tools effectively
Most remote meeting platforms have collaborative tools built into them. For instance, Zoom allows you to annotate or draw on the screen as you’re presenting. Your client can also draw on the screen at any time while you’re presenting. Tools like this are especially helpful if there is a something that isn’t easily explained but can be described or highlighted with a few simple clicks. If you’re conducting a walkthrough of your application or a new program, this type of tool helps immensely! It’s much easier to see a highlighted section of a page than a cursor. Many programs also have collaborative whiteboard areas that can be utilized to take notes or expand on ideas discussed in the session.
6. Ask more questions than you typically would
Remote sessions can get a bit dull if they’re very one-sided, with one person doing a majority of the talking. So, if you’re presenting, be sure to ask your client more questions than you might typically do if you were meeting in-person. Try to focus on open-ended questions instead of simple yes/no questions to get them engaged in the conversation. The more engaged your client is during your remote session, the more value it will drive, both for them and for your organization. Be sure to pause frequently throughout your presentation to make sure you and your client are on the same page! If you’re conducting a training that would typically take place in-person, be sure to focus on the client the same way you normally would if you were in their office. Have your client demonstrate tasks on your platform or program the same way you would if you were there in person. Just because you’ve shifted from in-person to virtual training does not mean you need to sacrifice customer experience. Video conferencing can also be useful when chatting only over the phone seems impersonal.
7. Follow up shortly after the virtual training
Effective meetings (both in-person and remote) almost always contain thorough follow-ups. Take detailed notes, including next steps and timelines, and if you and your client feel comfortable, you can record your meeting and include the recording in your follow up email along with your notes. This is a great idea if you are running a training that would usually happen in person. The training video can then be viewed by anyone at the client’s organization and eases some of the fears around remote sessions. Recordings also eliminate the need for you or your client to repeat that same training for other members of their team, making it a more effective use of both you and your client’s time. Your follow-up email should contain the call recording link (if you’ve chosen to do that), general session notes, and clearly defined action items with timelines for you and the client. You may also wish to schedule a follow up call or your next quick check-in call at this time.
These tips have been instrumental in my ability to lead successful virtual training sessions and meetings with both clients and colleagues. Try one or all in your next remote session!