One of the common complaints from onsite is, "The offshore team doesn't acknowledge our emails. When we send a question or a request, no one lets us know what is going on."
Sometimes onsite may ask offshore to complete a task. Instead of responding to the email, offshore talks to their team members to figure out if they can do it or not. While most of the time offshore starts and completes projects, it could be common that the response or acknowledgment of the initial email only happens days or weeks later when the request has been finished.
While the positive side is that the work has been done, the flip side is that onsite team members or clients feel in the dark, because no one pinged them. They have no idea what is going on, if work is being done or not. Remember, when we work on distributed teams, we do not see our counterparts at all. When we do sit in the same office or nearby locations we may have the opportunity to say hi, walk by their desk, talk to them face to face or even attend meetings with them in the meantime where we can get our emails answered face to face. As this doesn't happen when one person sits in India and the other in the U.S., it's critically important to answer email requests with acknowledgements.
Acknowledgements vs. Updates
Acknowledgements answer an initial request or question. Updates help team members to understand the status of ongoing work, whether that ongoing work is going on only for a few days or a few weeks. Now a days as many global software teams function in Agile Methodology, stand up meetings may suffice to keep all team members on both shores in the loop (proactively updated). While a part of updating is acknowledging, acknowledging gives the 'heads up' that, "Yes, we have received your request and we are working on it." Ideally, if in the acknowledgment we can also communicate a suggested due date or timeline, that would be even better.
Types of Acknowledgments
Let's look at how to acknowledge based on agreement, disagreement or partial agreement, using this initial request as the starting point:
Onsite sends this email:
Good day. Hope you are well. We would like to know if you can add an additional payment method to the payment gateway on our checkout page. Can this be done?
How to positively acknowledge (send this email within 1 business day or less):
We have received your request. As per our previous discussions, adding an additional payment method makes sense. It will help attract more customers. In our previous meeting, we already discussed the payment method to add. We will move forward and add this to the site within three business days.
Please let us know if you have any questions.
How to acknowledge and politely decline (send this email within 1 business day or less):
We have received your request. While we understand the importance of adding this additional feature to the website, and know it will increase your customer loyalty, we are facing some restrictions with adding this feature. Rather than elaborate in an email, could we set up a call either today or tomorrow to discuss our analysis?
Could you please share your availability so that we can arrange a call with the team to discuss this?
How to partially agree to the request (send this email within 1 business day or less):
We understand you would like to add another payment feature to the website. Our team has discussed this, and while it is a good idea, there are some limitations to the current site that prevent adding an additional payment option. Possibly we could either replace an existing payment option with the suggested one, or we may have to look into how to increase the functionality of the site to allow adding more payment types. Shall we discuss this further on a call?
Would you be available tomorrow at 6pm IST or 8:30am EST to discuss this? If this time is not convenient for you, please let us know an alternative time that works better for your schedule.
As noted above, it's ideal to send acknowledgement emails within one business day or less. Some offshore teams may wait until a status update meeting to answer emails in a more personalized environment. While this works, often what happens is without a note or an agenda, sometimes verbal acknowledgements of requests in meetings is missed out on. Depending on the urgency of the request and the scheduling of the next meeting, some acknowledgements are better answered even within one hour by saying, "I have received your request. Let's discuss this further in today's status update call."
Acknowledgments build confidence in our business associates that we have [vitrually] heard them and how we intend to proceed. Whenever possible, acknowledgments should include a collaborative tone to communicate a team approach and the spirit of working together.
Acknowledgments are not only important in email. They are also important over the phone; in conference calls, status update meetings, and other routine verbal interactions. Keep this in mind when on calls and in face to face meetings with business associates.
What is your experience with acknowledging? How does it feel not to receive an acknowledgment? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
If you are wondering, "How can I get acknowledgements from my Indian development team?" see this post.
Jennifer Kumar and associates of Authentic Journeys help onsite and offshore teams build strong global and cross-cultural teams. Contact us for more information.
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