Skip to main content

Delivering effective follow the sun customer service

Thanks to advances in technology, we now live in an increasingly interconnected world. Consumers and companies are now happy to work with or buy from businesses based anywhere in the world.

At the same time companies themselves can benefit from technology to optimise their customer service operations and provide 24×7 support through “follow the sun” models. This sees contact centres located in different time zones across the world working together to provide continuous support across the globe. It means customers can get answers to their queries, whenever they need them, no matter where they are located.

Initially, follow the sun customer service was only feasible for enormous global businesses. They had the resources to invest in bricks and mortar contact centres and infrastructure in key time zones. The rise of the cloud and hybrid working has changed this. Companies can seamlessly add internal or external resources to their contact centre as and when they need them. For example, they could employ a small number of agents in another time zone to cover out of hours interactions, with these agents accessing the systems they need via the cloud.

Successful follow the sun customer service is built on six key best practices:

1. Ensure seamless transfer between regions

Given that there is overlap between the working hours of different time zones, companies need to be able to move interactions between regions. This could be to pass on a customer problem at the end of a shift or to meet capacity needs. After all, it is pointless having agents sitting idle in one contact centre, while customer queries mount up in another. For example, Hitachi Energy, an Enghouse Interactive customer, automatically routes incoming interactions from Spanish speakers to its Mexican contact centre if there are no local language speakers available in its European operation.

What is vital is that any transfer provides a full history of the interaction so far, and what the customer problem is. Customers don’t want to have to repeat themselves if they are speaking to a new agent in another time zone.

2. A single technology backbone

The cloud is essential to underpin flexible, scalable follow the sun operations. It means that the same technology backbone and systems can be used in every contact centre. Capacity can be scaled up and down to meet changing needs, ensuring efficiency, and reducing cost.

Having a single system also helps with support and maintenance. It reduces the resources needed to keep customer service operating effectively and minimises training time.

3. The ability to handle multiple languages across different channels

For many companies it is crucial to be able to offer support to customers in their local language. Therefore, they need multilingual systems that can seamlessly handle all interactions.

For example, Hitachi Energy delivers customer support in 14 languages from its five contact centres. Given that a native language speaker may not always be available, such as out of office hours for a specific country, customers are now offered the chance to chat with an agent in their own language. The system’s IVR detects the preferred language by analysing the call’s country code and then sends a local language text message with a link to start a chat session. During the chat, the solution automatically translates from any of 14 languages into English, in real-time. The Hitachi Energy team member can then write a response in English which is instantly translated and provided to the customer, creating a seamless conversation without requiring a common language. Hitachi Energy therefore doesn’t need to engage an out of hours service to deliver support in specific languages, increasing overall efficiency and ROI.

4. A unified, united team

Despite being based in disparate locations, it is important that every agent feels part of a single, global team, with common aims and objectives. Companies should therefore introduce consistent branding across their customer service operations to reinforce team spirit. And while it may not be feasible to bring everyone together physically to build togetherness, collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams can fill the gap. Regular social events can foster camaraderie, and internal chat and message boards allow agents to share their thoughts and experiences with their colleagues across the globe.

5. A consistent, easy to use platform

Consistency is vital when it comes to global service. To deliver this, agents need access to a single, global customer service solution that is easy to use, supported by a knowledge base to ensure consistent answers. It has to connect to other business systems to provide a complete picture of the customer to maximise efficiency.

At Hitachi Energy, all of its agents across the world use the same easy to use, unified platform from Enghouse Interactive. It integrates with the company’s CRM solution to automatically share relevant customer case information. This provides team members with all the functions, knowledge, and resources they need to do their job.

6. Ease of use for customers

The follow the sun process has to be seamless for customers. They cannot feel they are getting a second-class experience. Therefore, make sure the process is identical to how they would normally make contact, using the same local phone numbers or email addresses. These can then be automatically routed to the best available agent and contact centre. Ideally, customers shouldn’t see any difference, getting the same high quality support as from within their region.

For international organisations, follow the sun customer service provides the opportunity to efficiently extend support and use resources effectively while improving the overall experience for customers. However, for it to operate successfully companies need to focus on deploying the right technology and processes to create a single global, multilanguage platform to use across their operations.

Find out more about how Hitachi Energy is successfully meeting the needs of its global customers, download our case study here.