Managing time zone differences: outsourcing and customer service

Managing time zone differences: outsourcing and customer service
Marcia Da Silva
Marcia Da Silva
    5 minute read

When you outsource, you hire a team member who is located outside of your organisation. They are most commonly managed offsite by a third party outsourcing provider, sometimes down the street and sometimes on the other side of the world. Outsourcing is a big investment. It’s understandable that your business will have hesitations when deciding to engage and employ offshore employees located in other parts of the world such as the Philippines. One of the biggest concerns about outsourcing is time zone differences and what this means for your business operations. But, this concern can also be seen as an opportunity; especially when it comes to providing top-notch customer service in an 'always on’ business environment.

In a typical local office environment, the majority of your organisation will start and end at the same time - or thereabouts. Say a 9-5 job. All within your local time zone. With outsourcing, especially when offshoring tasks to staff in other parts of the world, it may appear a challenge to coordinate work around time differences.

However, with the right outsourcing provider who can tailor your offshore team’s hours to your requirements and by establishing internal best practices within your onshore team, these time zone differences won’t present any challenges. Your business will be able to access 24/7 operations if needed, or, extend operational hours to allow for more customer-contact availability than a standard 9-5 in your time zone.

In this blog, you will learn how to ensure seamless communication between your offshore staff, clients and onshore employees and how setting up an outsourced customer service team can actually benefit your bottom line by taking advantage of time zone differences.

Time zone differences: best practices

  • Overlap hours are a must

    Regardless of where your offshore team is located, how many hours ahead or behind they are from your local time, it is crucial that you establish an overlap in working hours. This will ensure that you can effectively manage, maintain and monitor areas of improvement, KPIs and customer service expectations in real-time.
  • Set realistic meeting times

    Make sure to take into consideration factors that may affect the attendance and quality of team meetings or one-on-one video conferences. Whether that be yourself meeting with your team, your team leaders organising weekly catch ups or even employee engagement activities. While your outsourcing provider will ensure your teams are ready to go as you need them, it may be worth considering time differences to ensure productive meetings. Especially if you are considering an outsourced customer service team that may be working on a 24/7 rotation. You’ll want to organise catch-ups with each of your employees to ensure you communicate the same information efficiently, depending on the shifts they are allocated.
  • Understand your offshore team’s culture

    Different countries means different cultural practices and behaviours. Same applies for different time zones. It’s important to take into account these cultural differences to ensure your offshore team is operating at the level you expect.

    Say you need your team to be online during times that they would culturally be required to be offline. Your outsourcing provider should be able to recommend solutions to these issues. For example, Filipino’s have a great work ethic and many would happily work through local public holidays and alternate work schedules to support onshore teams.
  • Invest in appropriate tools and technologies

    Outsourcing providers are in most scenarios experts at using cloud-based technology to ensure seamless communication between their clients and their offshore employees. It’s crucial that you invest in appropriate technology that will allow you to share, find and collaborate the information your offshore team needs to efficiently get their tasks done. By doing so, whether they are in the same time zone or not will not have any direct effects on communication or output.

    Agile project management tools and technologies are focused more on project communication. These applications heavily focus on tracking changes to documents or spreadsheets so you're able to see exactly what has been changed, when it was changed and who changed it. Example tools are, Assembla, Atlassian, Microsoft TFS, Rally and even Google Docs.

    Video conferencing applications are also widely used across outsourcing companies to allow their clients to maintain contact with their offshore team across devices at all times. This includes Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams to name a few popular applications. The screen sharing functionality of these video conferencing tools can allow you to share your screen with your offshore customer service teams to demonstrate processes in real time, provide feedback on projects and so on. You can also record screen shares and create training videos for further training or as a reference tool in the future when you decide to expand your customer service teams. You can also have your offshore team record your live screen share demonstration on Skype, using SnagIt, which will provide them with a training video they can save for further training, or as a reference tool in the future.

Why an outsourced customer service team can benefit your bottom line and take advantage of time zone differences?

How can your business take full advantage of time zone differences for your business? Outsourcing customer service tasks is a great way to increase customer experience and satisfaction which ultimately, will do wonders for your bottom line.

The following benefits showcase why different time zones and outsourced customer service or call centres are a perfect match:

  • Extended hours of service for customers

    Customers now expect service at all hours of the day, if not 24/7, which can be difficult and expensive to manage via a single location. By offshoring your customer service, you’ll gain the advantage of time zone differences which can significantly extend your hours of operation.
  • Expanding coverage

    An offshore team gives you the expanded hours to handle multiple international locations as well as the potential to offer service in multiple languages.
  • Reducing costs

    Going back to the bottom line benefits of outsourced call centres or customer service teams, you can significantly reduce your employment costs by up to 70%. In most cases, these costs will include many overheads such as office and IT infrastructure as well as your staff wages and HR management.
  • Re-focus on key business goals

    Answering customer questions and solving their issues is best left to a customer service team who have been trained in your business and product and have the specialist skills needed to deal with customers. By offshoring these tasks, you can then re-focus on nurturing client relationships, lead generation and strategy work which will promote business growth.
  • Improving efficiency

    A dedicated customer service team will be focused entirely on looking after your customers. Outsourcing providers are set up with the infrastructure, technology and the know-how to streamline customer service procedures. And without the distractions of other responsibilities, your customers will receive a fast and appropriate response.

What’s next?

As your business continues to grow, customer service becomes a key component to your success. In these times of the connected consumer, service expectations are at an all time high. So are you set up to meet your brand’s customer promise? How can you fully cater to your customer’s who are now more than ever, expecting quicker replies and round-the-clock care.

A best practice approach to customer service is required to understand these expectations of today's customers and the ways in which you can successfully meet their needs before, during and after purchasing your product or service.

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