5 Strategies to Manage Clients in Asia Remotely
Conducting business remotely is not always easy, as fluctuating time zones and cultural differences can provide challenges
According to a study conducted by IWG, 70 per cent of people globally work remotely at least once a week, with over 53 per cent working at least half of the work week remotely. Similar studies have found that remote work can lead to an increase in employee happiness and help connect opportunities globally that might have been inaccessible before.
In Asia, the remote work phenomenon is in full-swing, as seen by the 40 per cent annual growth of coworking spaces, which have historically housed freelancers, small businesses, and other employees that are not housed in a corporate office.
Conducting business remotely is not always easy, as fluctuating time zones and cultural differences can provide challenges. Thankfully, there are tools and strategies available to help remote workers juggle various remote working challenges when dealing with clients in Asia or from Asia to other countries.
1. Use Time-adjusted Automated Calendars
There is nothing worse than missing a meeting or important call from a time zone error. For example, Hong Kong’s local time is 13 hours ahead of New York’s local time, creating a short window for scheduling calls within normal working hours.
Easily accessible and free tools, such as Apple’s Clock application, can provide a manual way of adding in cities of interest and comparing time zones. Unfortunately, mistakes can still be made while referencing various time zones. Fully automated calendar products, such as Calendly, allow you to send a link to your meeting participants that will allow them to book a time that is available in your calendar. The best part is the booking process is fully adjusted for time zone settings and will send automated reminders via email prior to a meeting.
Using time-adjusted calendars and meeting tools will help you eliminate any risk of double booking or missing a meeting due to time zone confusion.
2. Learn to Over-communicate
With 47 defined countries or territories in APAC, learning the various subtleties from each culture can be a daunting task. In situations where you don’t know what to expect or early in the relationship, communication is key. This is especially important for doing business in Asia, where face to face meetings and communication are often preferred.
In order to establish early trust and reliability, communication via email and other messaging platforms can be more frequent than normal. Usually, if the communication becomes too frequent, you will be nicely informed. In case you are concerned about over-doing it, you can use tools such as Mailtrack.io to be informed when your email has been read and at what time. Mailtrack also sends nudges to senders to remind them to follow-up in case an email has not been opened.
Such tools provide a more automated way to manage your communication.
3. Invest in a Project Management Tool
Project management tools allow you to break down and organize deliverables, create roadmaps, and include daily updates to various tasks. Clients that may have very demanding expectations about the status of tasks can simply access the project management dashboard and see each status.
A study by Wrike found that 87 per cent of high-performing companies utilize project management software. The transparency offered by team-based software can create greater trust and loyalty between parties. If your client in Asia uses a preferred software, you can consider joining theirs or provide them with dashboard access to your tool.
Some popular project management tools on the market include Jira, Trello, Basecamp, Asana, and more. Each provide various tools and functionality to help you get organized with clients.
4. Be Flexible and Adapt to Client Requests
While doing business in Asia, it will be inevitable that you will eventually be asked to download an application that you might have not previously used. For example, Chinese social and business relationships almost exclusively run on WeChat, which currently boasts over 1 billion monthly active users. Not surprisingly, when doing business remotely with Chinese clients, using WeChat will eliminate a lot of friction as certain western applications are not readily available in China. In Japan and parts of Southeast Asia, LINE represents a similar status with nearly 200 million global users.
Avoiding regional applications will likely jeopardize new or existing business accounts and relationships at some point. It is highly advised to remain flexible and embrace new technology as a way of becoming one step closer to a culture.
5. Embrace Your Freedom and Flexibility
While obvious, working remotely provides the chance to adjust your schedule as needed. Consider carving out time to go visit long-term clients or partners in Asia.
In 2018, my partners and I traveled to Asia twice to meet with various partners, investors, and old contacts that we had not met in person yet. We continued to work while on the road, managing to see four countries in three weeks. The time on the road was extremely productive as we were finally on overlapping time zones and had the chance to spend quality time with prior remote relationships. What you will likely find is that the hospitality in Asia is second to none and the act of making the effort to travel and meet face to face will strengthen business relationships.