Managing customers when you’re outside of your usual time zone

When deciding which specific customers you should work with, I’ll often recommend that you work with customers within two hours of your timezone. That allows for the best availability for email responses, and also gives the most overlap for scheduling calls. 

However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll always be working from that exact timezone. Between visiting family in New Zealand, working from our offices on the West Coast of the US, and Expensify’s Offshore trips to exciting locations, I’ve often been working outside of my typical timezone. While I’m there, it’s pretty terrible to need to be working all night (hey, Thailand), or to need to be available extremely early in the morning for calls with customers in Europe (I’m looking at you, San Francisco and Portland).

So, how do you avoid messing up your sleep patterns, while also being available to customers? There’s two specific approaches that I recommend. First and foremost, replace live, synchronous calls with videos to explain complex topics. I’ve already talk about the value of video in this post. They’re a key approach to making sure that customers maintain the emotional relationship with you while you’re on a different working schedule. That will reduce dramatically the amount of live calls you need to do with a specific customer.

The second approach is to batch the time that you spend responding to customer emails as close as possible to overlapping with your customers’ timezones. During that time period, focus on responding to those customers, and avoid working on complex projects or investigations. In most cases, a short “Hey, I’m looking into this for you and will be able to give you an update within the next day” is a great way to give your customer confidence that you’ve received their message and are on the path to identifying a specific problem. 

So, those two approaches again are: 

  1. Use video in place for live calls
  2. Batch your emails to give the most overlap, and minimise deep work during that period

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