smb-tech-trendsHave you ever been embedded at one of your small business customers? I’m not talking about spending a day at a customer’s site or even a few days participating in an all-hands meetings. I’m referring to customer engagements where you need to be on site for weeks or even months at a time for a project or system implementation or you need to fill in when there’s a vacancy. You may be the acting head of marketing or interim CFO while the company recruits for the position.

Whatever the reason, working at a customer’s has its pluses and minuses. On the positive side, you learn a lot about the company – its processes and procedures and its culture – which can help you better serve your customer’s needs and in turn strengthen the relationship.

On the other hand, you may find yourself constantly challenged to avoid politics. There may be someone within the company who feels threatened by your presence. And there’s always the issues of confidentiality, since you may become privy to highly sensitive information.

Get the right technology

And if all the above didn’t pose enough challenges, you may find the environment makes it difficult for you to get the job done. That’s what happened to several members of IT consultancy Pariveda Solutions.  Many of the firm’s consultants worked on site as much as 30 to 50 percent of the time during a project implementation. They either sat with client employees in a large open area or shared small offices with each other. In either case, a lack of privacy and noise interference made it difficult to conduct phone calls whether they used their smartphones or placed soft calls to team members on their laptops over Pariveda’s unified communications system.

The solution turned out to be Plantronics Voyager PRO UC headset, which supports both softphone and smartphone calls and ensures consistent audio quality regardless of the environment. The headset also enables consultants to move around the office if they need to get something while they are talking on the phone or find a more private setting.

Collaborate and communicate

employees working togetherWhile technology can resolve environmental issues, it can’t fix the interpersonal or cultural ones you may experience working onsite. For those I’d recommend the following:

Build collaboration: Become part of the team, not a competitor. Engage with your customers to identify problems, brainstorm solutions and work together to resolve issues. Also communicate frequently so that you are seen as part of the team.

Remain neutral: It goes without saying that you need to maintain a level of confidentiality about what goes on at your customer’s and what information they share with you. It also helps to try to be objective. The more impartial you are; the greater you will gain your customer’s trust and respect.

Set metrics: Even before you begin the project, set expectations that include milestones. Report regularly on your progress.

Working on site can be a great experience. The key is be armed with the right tools and the right perspective about your role.

Suggested reading: Pariveda Solutions uncovers clients potential using Plantronics headsets