Follow the Sun
“Follow the Sun” is an appealing support model for those who need to provide global customer care 24/7 without interruption. In this model, service teams work their traditional business hours and pass work to a global team when their shift ends; hence, the work continues around the clock (i.e. follow the sun).
The Follow the Sun term was first coined by IBM in the 90s as a method for utilizing global teams to develop software around the clock. Their goal was to reduce the overall time to market. Over the last 20 years, the term has become more common in describing a global customer care team that provides service 24/7 for a particular group of customers.
In today’s expanding business landscape it is not uncommon for businesses to serve customers around the globe. Below are some best practices for creating and maintaining US and International Customer Care teams that service both US and International customers.
General Best Practices
- Define your contact center requirements before you design workflow
- Define goals for servicing customers- which services will be provided 24/7?
- Determine the skills required for each service such as operations, language, technical etc.
- Design your communication channel routing, queues and skills together
- Design views and reports based on time zone views, to provide visibility to Follow the Sun SLAs
- Ensure a resource is on-call to support escalated issues that may require native/local insight
- Set the same expectations for all teams. The US and international teams should view the work queue as a “company” queue, not yours vs. mine or US vs. international
- Staff to your hourly forecast, regardless of resources constrained by geography
- Create an implementation plan
- Start small, test the transition of work between US and international teams on a small scale and then ramp up
- Include roles, responsibilities, processes, training, staff schedules and IT support for the care centers
- Hold regular team meetings or daily stand up meetings with both US and international teams
- Prepare leaders for dealing with challenges such as communication, interpretation and cultural expectations (roles, authority, urgency, customer experience expectations differ, tone etc.)
- Create a hiring plan to support your forecast, which may include staffing for another country’s holidays
- Use Wiki or an online forum/intranet to share pictures etc. to help integrate the teams, they need to become comfortable with each other and feel like they are on the same team. Recognize that this is a journey and does not occur directly after training.
- Encourage friendly co-worker attitudes by
- Recognizing each other’s holidays
- Share events such as Customer Service Week
- Share casual dress days
- Create a shared reward system using points, awards, etc.
- Minimize handoff of work, agents should finish tasks before ending their shift whenever possible. For any required hand off, make sure there is ample overlap in team schedules, so agents can communicate effectively and allow for Q&A.
- Utilize screen sharing, video calls and co-browse technology for operational collaboration
- Provide conference call availability between US agents, international agents and customers
- Ensure all processes are documented and readily available to all teams
- Create a cultural training plan for all potential countries that users are required to support
- Emphasize the following: organizational, geographic, customer expectations
- Provide the same core training for all users
- Provide multiple training approaches, leverage technology
- Have documentation available online
- Step by step guidelines
- Guidelines for how to make decisions, steps for “what to do if unsure on a decision”
- Use videos to show workflow and steps
- Use 2-way video for training
- On demand Q&A resources (people) during training and ramp up from each country
- Track questions between teams and use for training
- Use templated phrases so it is easy to communicate quickly while being grammatically correct
- Analyze customer volume by hour. (You may find you don’t need to staff for a full 24 hours)
- Use a dynamic workflow system to manage your workload and your SLAs (such as PureCloud)
- Implement a quality process and, whenever possible, have someone from the native country of the customer perform the QA evaluation
- If the teams are transnational, consider having a separate data governance team that controls the health of your data
- Align queues and skills with the workflow routing rules across all channels
These best practices are designed to get you thinking about optimizing your international contact centers and global customer care teams so they can best serve the needs of your customers. After all, customer satisfaction is what it’s all about! If you’d like to have an in-depth evaluation of your contact center structure and workflows, give us a call. EDCi’s Customer Care experts have designed and implemented dozens of contact center projects and we’re here to help you too!