Visiting Clients Onsite
I’m in San Antonio for the week working onsite with a client.
I remember my first onsite visit and the nerves/excitement I felt. This seemed apparent to my boss so he offered little tips as we traveled. Some of them went something like this:
“I wear my suit when I fly so it doesn’t get wrinkled in my bag”
“You can remove minor wrinkles from your clothing using the steam from a hot shower.”
It wasn’t mind blowing advice but I really appreciated the gesture.
Hear are my own set of tips I’ve come up with over the years:
- Come up with SOPs. You want to prevent having to do something “live”. I fill my calendar up with all the meetings and tasks to perform onsite. For meetings I plan out an agenda. For technical tasks I attach thoroughly tested SOP to refer to in case anything goes wrong.
- Don’t experiment with food. I’ve had to cancel meetings because of food from quick taco shops or ordering Omakase style. If you’re keen to experiment save it for the last night.
- Always bring snacks. You never know how long meetings will run or when you’ll break for lunch. This week I’ve got Goodnessknows granola bars and a Camelback bottle.
- Offer to treat the meals. Clients really appreciate the gesture. If you’re apprehensive about the costs you can build them into your onsite fee.
- Get on the same page about expenses. Who is going to cover travel costs? Are they willing to pay your weekly/daily rate? Some clients offer to plan and pay for your trips for you. I tend to bill two ways: per expense or for the visit. If it’s my first time there I charge a daily rate plus expenses. After several visits and getting a handle on the trip costs I’ll charge a flat rate and just expense everything else to the business.
- Keep notes on services you’ve tried. I’ve been visiting this client in San Antonio for almost 9 years. Over that time I’ve had several VAs. To make their planning easier I give them a list of hotels and rental companies I like/don’t like.
- Try to blend. I try to get a sense ahead of time of the onsite attire but if I can’t, I dress business casual during my first visit. Then for subsequent visits I dress up or down depending. It may feel uncomfortable but you’re going to get a lot of one on one time with onsite visits. You don’t want to be a distraction with the clothes you wear.
- Some people onsite are going to be rude/hostile. This sucks and it’s only happened to me a handful of times. They’ve got their reasons. Maybe they didn’t want you hired in the first place or maybe they feel threatened by your presence. If they’re rude I try to remain cordial. If they have some criticism about my work I pick and choose my battles. If it’s unfounded I tend to just ignore it but sometimes it just requires a little education on my part.
I know I ended that list on a sour note but you should always accept a visit to work onsite.
You don’t know what kind of adventures you’ll get to go on. I once got to tour a client’s 100 plus car collection (many of which included vin numbers 1 thru 5). He even had his hometown Dairy Queen into replicated in his garage!
Sure, as developers, 99% of our work can be done remotely but onsite visits aren’t about that. They’re about developing relationships and continuing to build on the goodwill and trust you have with your client.