Here are some best practices that have emerged from conducting virtual site safety visits with construction and general industry clients, what would you add?
- Don’t assume it’s Zoom. Make sure the client knows that you plan to do a virtual visit! Be specific about the platform you’ll be using and any app or download requirements.
- Test it yourself first. If your school aged kid is at home, they can go to another room with a tablet or cell phone while you stay in your office. Practice using several platforms so you know what to expect from each.
- Lead! Tell your client which platform you prefer to use. If they have a preferred platform, they’ll let you know, and you can adapt. Again, don’t assume Zoom, the client may have specific requirements based on security, talk about this at least a week in advance of your planned visit.
- Schedule it. This is the tough one for me. My clients usually give me the ability to show up unannounced for site visits, or relatively unannounced with just the date and time frame pre-arranged (like the cable installer). With virtual site visits, it’s important to schedule in advance so we don’t waste each other’s time.
- A 3-act play approach. Start with an introduction with the client at their desk or a conference room. This is a good way to ensure technology is working and do any last minute troubleshooting. Then conduct the walk-through (see item 6 for more), and end back in the office or conference room to wrap up.
- Be safe! With the client walking the site with you on a device in their hand, it’s a little awkward. As you see things you’d like to talk to them further about, tell them to stop or otherwise safely “pull over” so you can chat while they’re standing or sitting still. Once you’ve talked, they can resume walking to the next area of their site or facility.
- Be flexible! The internet will crap out, the client may not know their site as well as you do, and there may be some socializing time. I’ve had all three of these things happen during each virtual visit I’ve conducted, and it makes things fun. We get to laugh about what the screen froze on while the client walked into an adjacent building, I was able to point out a work area my client didn’t know existed, and I was able to say hi to some folks I usually see in person just a few times a year.
The human connection is more reliable than the wifi, and as long as you can keep the human side engaged, your virtual site visits will be productive, engaging, effective, and even fun!