While firms are still grappling with how to get keep teams of lawyers and professional staff engaged and connected in the ongoing virtual and remote working world, little has been written about how firms are adapting to help high-functioning client teams succeed in a virtual environment. These are some of the best practices we are seeing through our work training, supporting and leading client teams:
Keep Meetings Brief: Not every meeting has to be an hour. This is true in a wide range of contexts, but with client teams, the default is to schedule every meeting for an hour. With Zoom fatigue, scheduling shorter meetings (even 20 minutes) keeps the momentum going and fosters connectivity.
Have Focused Agendas: Building on that point, make sure there is a reason for the Client Team to convene. Too often we observe client teams that spend the bulk, if not the entirety, of their meetings recapping work in progress and potential future work. It’s relatively easy to share status updates; it’s hard to consistently have a purpose beyond the work at hand in a meaningful manner. One simple strategy is to have specific agenda items on the individual client contacts, how the team is adding value to the client relationship and what’s going on in the client’s industry that is important to share.
Talk About Things that Need to be Talked About: If an update of what’s happening with the client doesn’t require conversation, then just send that out to the team as a status update. Save the discussions for topics that are nuanced, important, relationship and opportunity driven and not otherwise easy to communicate. For example, if someone is leaving the client organization, discuss the impact of that person’s departure, where they are going, whether that is an opportunity for the firm, what the impact will be on the clients’ needs and whether the firm can offer short-term support like a secondment or a bank of hours.
Give Everyone a Role: Even in non-COVID times when meeting in person, the client team lead often does all of the talking. In a virtual environment, this can be exacerbated by the inherent difficulties of back-and-forth interactions. Unless participants are given a specific role or directly asked a question, they often linger in the background. By assigning agenda items in advance of the meeting, participants are forced to prepare and are generally more engaged. Not every meeting will create an opportunity for everyone to have a role, and again, when there’s nothing worth talking about, simply cancel the meeting.
Invite the Client(s): One of the worst practices we have experienced in supporting client teams is for the team to exist and meet but never include the client. We strongly encourage client feedback interviews as a starting component of a client team; they naturally provide action items, competitive intelligence and other insights that are discussion worthy. They also frequently yield a roadmap for client service. But beyond that, inviting a rotating roster of clients to join the client team meeting to provide updates, discuss challenges and share future concerns fosters connectivity. Also, clients like to be asked.
Not all clients are worth a client team. Be thoughtful, diligent and purposeful, and while there is obvious Zoom fatigue these days, having smart and focused reasons to convene will yield powerful results.