SVA Premier: Working remotely with clients

Interestingly one of the questions I got asked most whilst doing my pre-maternity training sessions was how to work with clients remotely – what software could you use, how would they work with someone who didn’t have an online diary, what did they need to ask the client before starting work so they didn’t need to go back and ask multiple questions – clients are busy people, you want to save them time, not cost them it!!!
 
So we’ve done a little bit of a mish mash of how to work with clients remotely this month.  Some of the stuff you may have come across before, or perhaps you have your own version of it already and want to use this as a reminder… SVA’s Guide to Team Working covers the most basic options of how to build a virtual team – it’s designed for clients (particularly charity or voluntary organisations) to read, but you may well pick up some tips about how you could communicate with clients.  
Download your copy here:  Team_Working
 
A client set up form should ask all the important questions – what might you have missed on yours? Are you getting all the relevant details from your clients as soon as you get them to sign up with you?  It makes invoicing and marketing to them in the future MUCH easier!  Download the Client Set Up Form here.

Email Set Up:

Filtering or responding to emails under the client’s company name will require some information from them, although some clients will be quite happy for you to explain that you are their virtual assistant and just to use your own email address

  • Webmail: The client may be able to set up webmail access for you to send/receive emails from – this will require a website address, username and password from them, and you’ll need to discuss with the client if this will be monitored by you regularly or whether they should set it up to copy them into any correspondence which gets sent to this email address.
  • Using your own Outlook/email client: This will require POP3 or IMAP settings from the client’s webhost – usually consisting of incoming mail server, outgoing mail server, username and password.  Again, you will need to agree with the client how this email is monitored.  IMAP has the advantage of telling the web server what has been dealt with (e.g. replied to, deleted, moved into folders etc) without removing content from the server thus avoiding duplication of work.  For POP3 emails, I usually suggest setting these up to leave a copy of the email on the server so that if the client needs access to information it still remains there.  It very much depends on your client’s hosting what they are able to supply.
  • Remote access: The other alternative is to remotely access the client’s computer via www.logmein.com / www.gotomypc.com or similar where you “take over” their screen.  It will require that the computer is switched on and connected to the internet, but has the added bonus of all sent items being in the same place.
  • Low tech version:  Use own email or set up additional client@yourcompany.co.uk email address to deal with all their correspondence.  
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Calendar

Again, it depends a bit on your client’s IT setup as to what is possible on this…

·         Microsoft Exchange Server: If they have Microsoft Exchange Server on their webhost, they should be able to give you permission to access their Outlook calendar, just like they would if you were their office assistant and you had a server where all the calendars/emails were hosted.  A lot of people have this if they use Blackberry/iphone as it is used to synch emails/calendar updates from their phones, so it’s becoming more common.  Their calendar would then appear as a separate tool in your Outlook and would synch automatically.  (Obviously this is best case scenario!!)

·         Online Calendars:  Failing that, your client may already have an online calendar like www.google.com/calendar or imac calendar which they use.  This does rely on them updating the online version, but in their settings they should be able to share the calendar with you so it appears on your own online calendar view and you can make changes/add appointments etc.

·         Low tech version:  Get them to give you availability over forthcoming week or slots when you can make appointments which they agree to keep clear.  This works well with non-techy people who have paper diaries.

Again, it depends a bit on your client’s IT setup as to what is possible on this…

 

·         Microsoft Exchange Server: If they have Microsoft Exchange Server on their webhost, they should be able to give you permission to access their Outlook calendar, just like they would if you were their office assistant and you had a server where all the calendars/emails were hosted.  A lot of people have this if they use Blackberry/iphone as it is used to synch emails/calendar updates from their phones, so it’s becoming more common.  Their calendar would then appear as a separate tool in your Outlook and would synch automatically.  (Obviously this is best case scenario!!)

·         Online Calendars:  Failing that, your client may already have an online calendar like www.google.com/calendar or imac calendar which they use.  This does rely on them updating the online version, but in their settings they should be able to share the calendar with you so it appears on your own online calendar view and you can make changes/add appointments etc.

·         Low tech version:  Get them to give you availability over forthcoming week or slots when you can make appointments which they agree to keep clear.  This works well with non-techy people who have paper diaries.

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