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Last Year was 'Snowtober' This Year it's Hurricane Sandy: Strengthen Your Call Center's DR Plan Now

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October 29, 2012

Last Year was 'Snowtober' This Year it's Hurricane Sandy: Strengthen Your Call Center's DR Plan Now

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

Hurricane Sandy is far from slowing down to wrap up this year’s hurricane season with a bang, and behind that, winter isn’t very far away. While to most people, it means putting away the summer clothes, putting in the storm windows and raking the yard, to call centers, it means something very different. While most call centers are generally equipped to deal with minor problems – glitches in equipment, absences on the part of some employees, high call volume – the effects of weather on call centers can be devastating. A closed call center due to circumstances such as power outages, flooding, building damage or employees unable to get to work can devastate a business.

For this reason, smart contact centers need to understand the concept of “disaster recovery.”

If your contact center’s disaster plans aren’t as robust as they should be, it’s time to put a comprehensive plan in place that will determine how your company handles – or doesn’t handle – an emergency that may disable it. The website SearchDisasterRecovery offers some tips to call centers for handling closures, noting that the first step is to understand your call center platform vendor's views and services for disaster recovery, invest time with a company representative to find out how the vendor can fulfill your uptime requirements.

More specifically, here are some steps to take:

·         If you have more than one facility, ensure you are able to roll some or all of your operations to the unaffected call center. Also be sure that your agents are equipped to work from their homes, with up-to-date computers, high-speed Internet connections and the correct type of headset.

·         Ensure that the call/contact system supports working from home – this means using a software-as-a-service or cloud-based solution -- and that all network connections can be quickly replicated; this ensures that the agent can work as usual even if from home. When testing this capability, determine how long it will take to re-establish the system in work-at-home mode.

·         Be sure it’s not just calls that can be routed to homes or overflow facilities. Be sure your IVR, skills-based routing and other front-end systems will work remotely, as well.

·         Cross train your agents. Agents who know how to do only one job will not be very flexible in the event of an emergency. Ensure that a significant portion of your agents can be adaptable in the event of an emergency.

·         Ensure that your network operations center (NOC (News - Alert)) has sufficient monitoring and analytical capabilities so you can identify network anomalies and address them before they escalate into major outages.

Traditionally the only option for companies was to incur the cost of deploying a duplicate, on-premises call center system. Despite this significant investment, there was still no guarantee that the duplicate site would be accessible to agents in the event of a disaster, according to virtual contact center solutions provider 8x8 (News - Alert) Inc., which offers its customers a contact center continuity plan to prepare for unexpected outages by provisioning in its data center a duplicate of a customer’s  current IVR, call flow and call processing operations.

With a simple redirection of the inbound 800 numbers, a truly disaster-proof solution allows call center agents to be up and productive immediately following a critical service outage. Most importantly, customers need never even know their calls have been redirected.

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