Follow the Moon (FTS) and Follow the Sun (FTS) scenarios for modern business involves being open 24/7 but 3 different global teams work a normal 9 to 5 day.
This article examines the hows and whys this scenario can work for businesses and how to go about setting up your own solution.
- Working hours
- Project setup
- Sense checks
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Working the weird hours.
You call for support at 11am is all good, no one is on lunch, people are available. It may not be convenient for you.
If you finish work at 6pm you might want to call at 7pm but will customer care be there.
Having a security alarm on your house and it acts up at 2am you will want a number to call but who is going to be awake at 2am to help you?
Is your business available when your customer needs you?
When companies put people in a building at anti-social hours you can expect a higher operating costs and the additional overhead of human resource management.
Most people are used to working an 8 hour day, 9am till 5am. Yet in today’s world of convenience people expect services to be available 24/7.
Websites and automation can make services available 24/7 like ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines). Some jobs still need the human touch.
If you created a late shift say from 5pm till 1am that still leaves you a hole of 1am till 9am.
So the shifts are
- 1am till 9am
- 9am till 5pm
- 5pm till 1am
Follow the Moon simply means choosing an operational pattern for Out of Hours (OOH) work instead of your working day.
Perfect, now where do you find the staff?
You can hire people for those shifts but it isn’t always easy as most people have lives they want to live. So there is a clever international solution.
Time zones came about in the 1850s. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) was adopted as the middle time for the world consequently giving us the following map
The International Date Line is the point that sees the first sun of a new day.
The Pacific Time Zone or Pacific Standard Time (PST) is 8 hours behind Greenwich, London. Parts of China, Phillipines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia are 8 hours ahead. So looking at our shifts again.
- 1am till 9am on the west coast of Australia is 9am till 5pm
- We work 9am till 5pm in Dublin
- 5pm till 1am on the west coast of America is 9am till 5pm
So instead of two awful out of hours shifts what if the work could move internationally? The same applies for any business globally.
Follow the Moon and the Sun
Follow the Sun (FTS) is the technical term to where the work moves from different processing centre to processing centre globally as time changes.
FTS stemmed from global telephone call capabilities.
The calls would come into one centre and be forwarded to another centre. The customer wouldn’t know the difference as someone answers no matter the hour of the day. The cost of forwarding the call to a different country was cheaper and better manned by moving it off shore.
With the advent of the Internet and cheaper global communications the opportunity to operate this model is even more possible in today’s world.
Similarly for night time services, Follow the Moon (FTM) is exactly the same as FTS but where the focus of your work must be done at night, e.g. out of hours security services, data network services and out of hours services.
Internet access and Phone Systems
The most cost effective approaches to this ability are done using the Internet. Previously phone calls using the Plain Old Telephone System (POTS) were expensive to call internationally. With the advent of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone calls can travel internationally for almost free!
Internet hosted or Cloud enabled phone systems allow connections to one phone system from around the world. “Forwarding” phone calls is no longer necessary. Teams such as Eleven based in Ireland with Albert Keating can talk you through global hosted solutions.
The internet is 24/7 so Follow the Moon or Follow the Sun, it’s always there for you.
Sharing the work
The next part is data. When a customer rings up having access to their data and records is important for the agents.
Sharing data between the centres is vital consequently you need an Internet enabled platform.
Whilst the initial costs of these in the early 2000s was possible with the advent of Software as a Service (SaaS).
The cost of providing global solutions has become a price of cents per person per day rather than out of reach.
A strong central security aware SaaS solution enables FTS or FTM solutions.
A standard script for staff to read from, standard training to introduce the product or services supported and common metrics are key to the solution.
Time and cost to set up
This is the frighteningly simple aspect to the solution. There are Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs) companies globally willing to do work for you in their time zones.
Companies such as Sitel can offer the entire package (Follow the Moon or Follow the Sun) but will charge you for setting it all up and managing the staff.
It is also possible with a SaaS data platform and cloud phone system for you to set up the solution and just retain a BPO in a time zone suitable to your shifts.
If you primarily communicate using SMS messaging, Email, Website or LiveChat, here again the Internet can make your support a global option.
This cost of setup would enable your product or service to be supported 24/7 with minimal management overhead.
The primary questions
- Have I got a phone system to route my calls?
- Is my phone system VOIP enabled?
- Do I have a data system that is secure and Internet accessible?
- What is the cost of hiring staff out of hours and running the whole thing from one site as opposed to the costs of an FTS approach
If you have very few Out Of Hours (OOH) calls in your time zone set up a “cost per call model” with the BPO in the other territories. You’ll only pay if they take a call. That cost will be higher but you don’t expect to get too many of them.
Having metrics on your customer’s calling patterns will help. When do your customers call?
Do you need to?
The first question is do you need to set up Follow the Moon or Follow the Sun?
- You may have a legal requirement for your product / service to be 24/7.
- From a marketing point of view having 24 hour support and coverage looks good.
- For corporate solutions being able to offer 24/7 support can be a contract winner.
- Staff and unions can become very unhappy with outsourcing so communication and strong leadership is required.
- HR and staff management is definitely easier when you outsource as you are managing a bill rather than managing people.
Operational focus and quality increases as the outsource centres want to keep your business and all they have to focus on is answering your contacts.
So the primary argument for putting in FTS / FTM boils down to cost.
No matter the arrangement you are going to pay for work done and an administrative overhead.
The best plan is to work out what running the operation yourself will cost and also guesstimating the administrative overhead costs.
- Follow the Moon focuses on OOH work primarily, so is it FTS or FTM you’re looking to manage
- How many hours go into hiring and training staff? Staff turnover therefore has a cost of X?
- How many staff do I need for OOH operations as leaving staff on their own isn’t really an option. Maximising OOH workers throughput requires two people (bathroom and lunch breaks is a minimum of 2 people)
- What is the management cost of doing this work ourselves?
- What is the cost of not doing work on a query for 16 hours while you wait for the next shift to become available?
Once you’ve worked out your own costs, finding a cost model that works for your volume of work is next.
Different BPOs in different countries offer different models. Some have Follow the Moon, some Follow the Sun, some both! Know which model you want to use and then get your “art of the deal” on with them.
Staff have different rates and costs in different countries so reviewing your BPO is important. Here are some considerations.
In an upcoming article I’ll discuss the model available and update this article. Please let me know and I’ll keep you updated if you’re interested.
With a BPO on a different continent you’re going to need to consider your quality management. Popping round to their desks isn’t all that easy.
There are a few different ways of doing this but contact recording is primary.
- If it’s calls you’re outsourcing then Quality Control (QC) checks on call recordings will be primary.
- Omni-channel contact (SMS, Email, Web Chat, etc) benefit massively from a data system that supports integrated QC.
In short you’re looking over their shoulder to see are they delivering your service as you would. Knowing what to ask beforehand can help.
Quality mechanisms are available and easily managed using the same SaaS platform for the delivery of your service.
Follow the Moon can provide you OOH QC checking services exclusively.
A secure data system is required and finding something that reduces your security overhead not increasing it is paramount.
Modern SaaS providers are used to international business and will be able to provide guidance and support in this area.
I personally have overseen a number of these solutions designed, developed and implemented successfully. The cost savings and management stress reduction can be dramatic.
Getting the best deal for your money is a primary consideration, the rest of the operational and human headaches will boil down to good communication and strong management.