Contact centers, like almost any business, are careful to do at least some contingency planning for business continuity in the event of equipment failures or power outages. But contact centers aren’t like any other business: while time lost from a perspective of employees is troubling, to be sure, lost customers are a disaster. Simply having battery back-up isn’t going to do it. What if an extended power outage keeps the lights off for days, or a storm floods the physical contact center?
For this reason, it’s absolutely critical that a contact center have offsite resources, say many contact center experts. Whether it’s an outsourced partner that can take calls in the event of an emergency, or a hosted, cloud-based solution that allows agents to work from anywhere there is an Internet connection, it’s critical that business entities offering customer support have an offsite backup plan.
“Too many companies think that making provision for IT disaster is enough when it comes to their contact center,” said Steven King, business development manager at South African company ContinuitySA. “IT is certainly crucial, but when it comes to the contact center, there are other considerations, among them your people.”
While many contact center organizations have evolved to a distributed model in which some agents work in one or more facilities and others work from their homes, it’s still not a common scenario. More often than not, companies rely on a single contact center facility that is vulnerable to weather disasters, illnesses or other emergencies. In the event of a shut-down, says King, companies are risking their brands.
“Understand the implications for your reputation and brand. If the face of your company goes down, you will suffer some reputational damage,” he writes. “This will help you to put in place the right level of contingency planning.”
Once a contingency plan is in place, the contact center should plan on testing it at least once every six months: have the agents log in from home or an alternate facility you’ve chosen. Ensure that resources such as Internet connections and workstations are available and will meet the standards of call center quality in the event of a prolonged event.
Finally, recommends King, check with your service providers to ensure that they themselves have a viable contingency plan in place. Since you may be relying on them even more heavily than usual in the event of a call center facility shut-down, it’s critical that their own plans be up to par.