Staying in communication
The second thing to consider is communication. Language can be a barrier if you’re supporting teams in different countries where the first language is different; however, today that is less of a problem than previously. Make sure your teams are fluent in whatever the predominant languages are for the regions they support. In many regions, this means having at least two languages amongst the team. The more fluent your team is, the more efficient they will be with the end users, and therefore be able to close tickets faster. Almost as important is cultural differences; these usually align with language by region or zone. Make sure your team is aware of holidays or other cultural differences that may affect the end users they are supporting.
Managing disparate teams
Getting teams up and running is one thing, managing them is another. If you manage teams across time zones, here are a few tips to help keep everything running smoothly.
- Be considerate of local time. Unfortunately, this will probably mean some inconvenience for you, but scheduling meetings with a remote team during personal hours will not be a morale booster.
- Be extra careful of your calendar. Make sure that as you travel across time zones, you are keeping your calendar synched with the local time of the area you are in. This will help ensure you avoid missing key meetings and appointments.
- Always state the time zone when communicating a time so there will be no ambiguity.
- Be visible. Use your webcam so your reports can see the expression on your face. It builds a better relationship than just a phone call.
- Be patient. Remember they are not on the same schedule as you and therefore responses may be delayed. Email earlier if you need a response sooner.
- Communicate often. Make sure your team knows you are there to support them when they need it.
- Meet face-to-face as often as possible. Never discount the effectiveness of face-to-face meetings. They are a necessary part of managing a remote team. Make sure you budget for the trips.
Investing in the capability of providing service to regions and time zones other than your local one can provide significant opportunity for your business to grow. It can open doors to supporting larger businesses and drive higher revenue and profits. There are challenges involved, but they are relatively easy to deal with and manage—as long as they are planned for properly.
Eric Anthony is principal of customer experience at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed services provider business for over six years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter at @EricAnthonyMSP