If you're ready to explore outsourcing to an offshore location as a solution that will help tackle cost and efficiency issues, you might have a few questions about what to expect. Misconceptions about the quality of work you can expect when you outsource, company culture, work life, and the level of ownership you will retain over the work are pretty easy to clear up. Read on to learn more about the reality of working with an outsourcing provider across time zones.
Do You Have Questions About Time Zone Differences When You Outsource?
We noticed that there's one question that doesn't get addressed as often as it's asked, however. We hear it from leaders who are ready to start working with an offshore team and focus on the work that's critical to their organization. They've seen everything that the highly-educated Philippine talent pool, has to offer, for instance, or want to work with a team of customer care agents in Gurugram who can consistently deliver customer satisfaction scores in the very high nineties, but can't help but wonder, "What hours do outsourcing employees work?"
After all, anyone who has taken an international business trip or even a family vacation to the opposite coast knows that everything from communication to a good night's sleep can get tricky when you're looking at a time zone difference of more than a few hours.
Personiv's sites in the Philippines and India are 10.5 and 13 hours ahead of our home base here in Austin, for instance, a difference that makes remote team cooperation a topic that's firmly within our wheelhouse. That's especially true of our VP of Client Services, David Graham, which is why we asked him to help address some of the questions BPO first-timers have about adjusting to working with teams in multiple time zones.
Working Across Time Zones With a Team in a Remote Location Will Keep You up at Night
When a company outsources to a team that's a full ten to 12 hours ahead of them, a common initial concern is whether or not that means they'll be working all hours, managing a team that is bright and sunny when we are heading to bed here in the States. Naturally, that might get you wondering – will I be answering phone calls and emails from my offshore team long after I've clocked out?
Fortunately, this is also the easiest question to answer: not unless that's what you prefer. You see, our teams in India and the Philippines work when our clients do - which means that they arrive at 9 p.m. when you are just getting your second cup of coffee here on the other side of the world. Unless of course, you want to arrive to work with tasks already completed and waiting in your inbox. This is why, at Personiv, we have teams that work 24-hours a day to serve our customers' needs. Above all, you get to determine the hours your team will work, which makes it pretty simple to get things done.
In fact, we prefer to codify client expectations directly into the service level agreements we work with them to create, and that includes working hours. Look for a provider who will give you the same control and project management tools.
Graham agrees it's best to address this concern at the outset, explaining: "Whether it be a project or long-term program, a client will want to specifically review work shift requirements or preferences and discuss the available options with potential offshore service providers at the outset." This is true also for meeting times and agreeing with your team on when to schedule meetings.
Of course, there are major benefits to having opposite work schedules from your offshore team, too, says Graham. "Some clients actually prefer offshore day shift work hours (during U.S. nights), as they can assign tasks and deliverables for the offshore team to complete through onshore non-business hours. For some clients, being able to begin the workday with a set of completed tasks and deliverables has great value."
At the end of the day – excuse the expression – no one will look at you askance if you ask to work with an overnight or night-shift team. "If the provider is working in the BPO space, the service provider is accustomed to working all shifts to cover global time zones as requested," assures Graham. So whether you're starting your day in California or New York, your outsourced team are there when you need them.
Offshoring Means Sacrificing Real-time Communications Thanks to Time Differences
When it comes to relationships, there's a reason that the adage "communication is key" is repeated so often and by everyone from business consultants to marriage counselors: it's absolutely true.
If you've ever traveled even a single time zone away from the people you communicate with each day, you know that even a few hours' difference can throw a wrench in the schedule you're used to, turning routine check-ins that were once automatic into coordinated team efforts.
That's probably why people sometimes believe the myth that says a remote team is a disjointed one. When it's not clearly understood that your team can and will work the same hours you do, this is a "challenge" that is actually entirely surmountable. It's also a challenge that can be solved with – you guessed it – communication with team members.
"Communicating with your offshore team and leadership is critical! At the outset of your project or program, a communication plan should be put in place," Graham advises. The key is to get specific and set concrete times and expectations that prioritize your unique communication needs through all communication channels. Some things the VP suggests you include in that plan?
Daily – or as-needed – operations calls with your point person or team
One-on-ones with your operational manager
Monthly and quarterly business reviews
Detailed documentation on escalation processes and contact information
Graham explains that as the program and relationship between you and your BPO partner matures and evolves, this plan can be updated, reworked and revised to suit your needs, whether that means changing the frequency of these check-ins or bringing in different point people. Something we love about communication with our clients here at Personiv is the close working relationship between our people and our clients. No hoops to jump through - just good, old fashioned responsiveness.
Apart from deciding when you'll communicate, implementing a collaborative infrastructure will ensure real-time communications with your remote team, no matter where the sun is up. There's never been a better time to pull the trigger on collaborative software or team communication platforms than right now, when more of the world's workforce than ever before is already remote. Graham communicates in real-time daily with his counterparts overseas with tools like Microsoft Teams, and advises clients not to skip this step.
More on Communication Between Time Zones With Your Remote Employees: On-Track Remote Teams: Making Productivity a Priority
"You need to have a channel open for daily support," Graham explains, "so you can answer offshore operations questions and concerns as they arise," adding that clients should have an onshore subject matter available during the working hours that are convenient for them to facilitate ongoing efficient operations. "When offshore agents have questions, if they can get real-time assistance and guidance from the client, this helps mitigate operations delays and circumvent potential misunderstandings or even errors."
It Will Be Difficult to Find Skilled Outsourcing Workers Who Can Keep Your Schedule
Another misconception about working in different zones is that in order to find a team that's willing to work overnight, you'll have to "take what you can get". Nothing could be further from the truth, and in countries where BPO services make up a crucial part of the economy, "highly-skilled talent" and "willing to work overnight" are not mutually exclusive.
What is it really like when working across time zones with a BPO provider?
In the Philippines & India, for instance, Graham explains how working during different times is actually woven into the fabric of the business world in the form of campuses called hubs. "BPO hubs are developed and designed to accommodate the BPO workforce, and that includes overnight workers. BPO hubs facilitate travel for employees, are located conveniently to 24-hour bus stations and other public transportation modes, and provide round-the-clock services like restaurants, food vendors, convenience stores and mobile phone vendors. Additionally, BPO providers are required to offer on-site services such as nursing staff, rest and nap areas and security." As of late, outsourcing remote companies have also adjusted their operations to facilitate their workforce with everything they need to work remotely.
BPO providers with multi-decade histories will also be the ones that have lower attrition rates than the industry standard because they invest heavily in all of their employees, irrespective of the shift those employees work. When this kind of employee engagement is prioritized, combined with hub infrastructure Graham describes, BPO clients find that the talent pool is much wider than it might be onshore. Add this to the fact that working in the BPO industry, and for U.S.-based clients specifically, is a well-paid and highly-respected career overseas, and you're looking at the best talent out there for your offshore program.
You'll want to look for providers that have lower attrition – along with transparent numbers to back that claim up – and a roster of legacy partnerships. Whether you need a remote worker, or a full team working from home or on-site, Personiv's employee engagement initiatives are literally award-winning, and our proven ability to create unique, flexible solutions for organizations that need highly skilled offshore professional talent is why we've been able to proudly serve our clients for more than 35 years.
We can help you, too. If you're ready to see what we can do for your organization any time of day and night, get in touch! We're ready to listen.