Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast with fury in October 2012. As the massive storm moved ashore, large technology companies around the country began experiencing major outages due to the brutal weather. For call centers 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?"
1. 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 know their roles and responsibilities in the midst of a crisis or disaster.
2. Utilize Automation
On the technology side, it will make the disaster-management process much smoother if you have a self-service solution in place that will enable real-time disaster-recovery management, such as temporary messaging, queue messaging, queue management and alternate center routing to complement your disaster-recovery plan.
3. Diversify Data Centers
You must be sure 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.
4. Don’t Panic
If you know a disaster is on the horizon, don't panic - this is what contact centers are designed to do. First, you need to determine whether or not 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 in advance with employees and customers who may be affected. Will the natural disaster impact your service to customers? Are customers located in impacted areas? If you have an automated solution that enables you to effectively communicate with your customer base, plus up-to-date contact information, this can be a benefit.
6. 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 in the midst of a crisis, contact center professionals are often bombarded with the pressure of short-term volume management rather than medium-to longer-term objectives. By making a commitment to ensure non-failing communication during a disaster, you can completely change the course of a crisis situation.