This article originally appeared in the Jan./Feb. 2013 issue of CUSTOMER magazine.
Hurricane Sandy was the storm consumers and businesses alike thought would not be as bad as forecasted, but it was. As the massive storm moved ashore, large technology companies around the country began having major outages due to the weather brutalizing operational sites on the East Coast.
If you weren't prepared, it showed, especially in the contact center industry.
For centers that were caught off guard, it meant valuable communications were being delayed, or not sent at all. It also meant a complete breakdown in communication with consumers at a time when it was of the utmost importance.
Contact centers are in the business of communicating, so we must also be in the business of communicating during a crisis. It is during these times of calamity when information most needs to be relayed. Whether you were prepared for Sandy or not, the more important question now is: Are you prepared for the next disaster?
To help you prepare, we suggest the following steps for creating an effective disaster contingency plan for your contact center.
Practice Makes Perfect
First and foremost, you need a disaster recovery and business continuity plan in place. It is also important that you have frequent crisis simulations to ensure all staff knows their roles and responsibilities in the midst of a crisis or disaster.
On the technology side, the disaster management process will be much smoother if you have a self-service solution in place, enabling real-time disaster recovery management such as temporary messaging, queue messaging, queue management and alternate center routing to complement your disaster recovery plan.
Diversify Data Centers
You must be sure that your data centers are in geographically diverse locations to safeguard against natural and man-made disasters. By strategically placing your data centers across the U.S., you provide multiple layers of redundancy and ensure that no single point of failure can cause a disruption to service.
If you know a disaster is on the horizon, don't panic – this is what call centers are designed to do. First, you need to determine whether the issue is going to affect your data center. Next, leverage your processes for volume management, which should include optimized self-service, automated communications, additional staffing, remote employees, overflow centers and vendors.
Communicate with employees and customers who may be affected in advance. Will the natural disaster impact your service to customers? Are customers in impacted areas? If you have an automated solution that enables you to effectively communicate with your customer base, plus up-to-date contact info, this can be a benefit.
Understand the Impact
If the unthinkable happens, and you do experience a disruption, start by communicating to staff and customers to let them know the status of the situation. During this communication, share a timeframe of when you expect normal service to begin, and tell them when you will be sending an update on the state of affairs.
If you understand the impact as soon as possible, and work to solve any performance issues, you can communicate with consumers throughout the process by utilizing self-service.
The contact center is already a disaster recovery hub, but amid a crisis, professionals are often bombarded with the pressure of short-term volume management rather than medium- to longer-term objectives. It is important for contact centers to take the time to understand and prepare for natural disasters. By making a commitment to ensuring non-failing communication during a disaster, you can completely change the course of a crisis situation.
If you prepare your employees, clients and technology, you’re setting your contact center up for success instead of failure.
Paul Logan is president and CEO at Contact Solutions.
Edited by Braden Becker