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Improving offshore communications - going dark - solved

This post about us going dark during business hours of our US-based clients is a mixture of two issues I personally enjoy heavily: improving customer support in our offshore rails development agency and utilising SaaS tools to provide more „international” experience.

Problem

One of the most painful parts of working as/with an offshore company is fighting with the timezone difference. It can be neutralised with a good process - having frequent status update calls, using proper PM tools and organising work in, for example, weekly sprints.

But, as usual, this stuff doesn't matter much when there's a crisis: with recent outages like the ones caused by Sandy hurricane - nothing listed above can help. There are just times when a client has to get in touch with the provider. What should happen if usual (Skype, email) ways fail?

Resolution

This is obvious for local cooperations: grab a phone and dial someone. Everyone who received an email from us should have our +48 phone numbers, and while the cost is quite manageable when contacting from inside of the EU, it can get quite expensive on the US <-> Poland line.

I had set up a US-based toll free number for our long-term US-based clients to contact us in cases of emergency. There are couple ways to do this - we went with Grasshopper. It was as simple as registering and contacting their support to launch international number. It's $12/month for a number and a varying rate for incoming calls, but this cost compared to what losses could be caused by us going completely dark for our customers could be, is like nothing.

I forwarded the number to my cell phone (which is always with me). There, it's done. Then it was a matter of communicating this to our clients with a huge disclaimer saying it's for critical purposes - and guess what? They did realise it from the very beginning and so far are very reasonable about it.

Profits

  • we can handle emergencies better

  • our services are getting more of the local (or international) sense

  • our clients can be less worried about not being able to contact us during their peak hours

There are, of course, other ways to handle this kind of stuff - SLAs and such, but it's a different matter. For us, it's another small milestone achieved.

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