Disaster Recovery Plan in Call Center - Grace Heny - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
Disaster Recovery Plan in Call Center
“Bomb threat, natural disaster, riots and tsunami has inspired me to create this DRP framework and hopefully my piece of writing could help all Call Center Heroes in providing service to Customer” – Grace Heny.
DRP Contact Center’s Note
Lesson Learned from Japan’s Earthquake on March 2011
Have you ever imagine, all dear Call Center Professionals, that one day you will be asked to leave the Call Center building/location, and needs to relocate all your Call Center staffs. Your might get panicked not knowing what need to be done first, how to do it and what is the next operational step.
This is where “Disaster Recovery Plan” term or often abbreviated as DRP play role, which refer to a plan in managing emergency situations and consist of processes to continue services ly in a disruptive event. The most shocking event to all of us is the recent earthquake in Japan.The main purpose of a Disaster Recovery Plan is to ensure that Call Center’s operational activity can continue and the service continue during the emergency situation.
So the question is what should we prepare as the Call Center Management in facing disruptive events and what it should cover? Let’s discuss the following review.
Preparation in Developing Disaster Recovery Plan
We will start from the Call Center’s comprehensve operational framework to establish a good DRP, which is to use each layer as the components of the Call Center:
- Network Layer or IT which also covers the telecommunication flow; including phone number of all your staffs, phone’s line connection from PSTN central Switch to the Call Center, other cable connections or IT link in our Call Center.
- Equipment Layer; especially Call Center Technology and its related systems such as PABX, ACD system, IVR, recording system, CTI, telephone sets, computers and its peripherals including software and hardware. Also do not forget the equipment to supply electricity into those systems and tools; UPS is the common equipment being used nowdays. In few countries, power disturbance is quite common.
- Call Center Process Layer, starting from the process when a Customer calls to get an information, call is being picked up by agent and Customer interaction is being recorded in the contact management application, then calls is being followed up, resolved and informed back to the Customer. On normal condition, most of the processs and recording done by system, then the emergency situation will force those processes to be done manually. It is highly recommended not to forget documentation of what has been done in order to update the Customer database after the situation go back to normal.
- Reporting Layer, it is about how the report should be able to explain this extraordinary event and what approach should be used in a Call Center Contract; also often reffered as Service Level Agreement.
From all of the layers, the most important aspect is the People aspect and we should always put people’s safety first above alllayers. Let’s move on to discus each layer more deeply in below topics.
Network layer includes all IT’s telecommunication and line components: phone line access, such as Short Number 500xxx or 14xxx, link/connection from PSTN to company’s telephone network and IT link/connection and cablings in your Call Center. Should we differetiate the line for voice and data? The answer is that each of them have their strengths and weaknesses.
Let’s map the electricity cable line of your Call Center, fulfill the electricity safety standards and avoid prone situation. Do not overlook small things, such as a pile of plugs and wire which would be very dangerous when a short circuit happened. Map all the cable lines and develop a diagram to plot all equipments connected between each cable. Review this map to understand which point is the most prone and which critical equipment needs to be backed up by UPS. Sometimes we do not need a big disastrous event such as a bomb explotion to paralyze our Call Center. An event in another area could also affected our Call Center. A National Private Bank’s Call Center operation was affected due to a big flood occured in another areas in Jakarta as the STO which Call Center’s phone number access was located in was drowned by flood. Thus, the Call Center’s main access number was rerouted into a PSTN. If we’ve mapped out all the cables and lines, we could identify and point out which spotcertain components that would be damaged would and then establish a temporary solution.
A National Private Bank, the use of PSTN number is the temporary solution. How to communicate the temporary number to the Customers we can use the available channels like radio or other communication channels such as SMS or mailing list to enable our Call Center publish the number to public.
Equipment layer is the common facility that should be protected in the case of emergency situation. Besides registering equipments, the key item we should identify is to determine the priority of all those equipments. A long list of Call Center equipments are: PABX, IVR, ACD, telephone set, headset, Call Center Management reporting application, recording system, wallboard, contact management system, computer and its components.
The latest solution for those components is having a redundancy backup system and most of the equipment already has this capability. The simplest example is when CTI does not work, a Call Center can operate well through a process by asking Customer’s name when an interaction occured. This will not degrade the service significantly. The main objective of this diversion is how Customer’s call can continue to be well served although your CTI facility does not work.
Other common failure is when IVR does not work for the whole day, we can determine that as long as PABX is still working, then Call Center can continue its operation. This shows which equipment should we prioritize in delivering service to our Customer. PABX has higher priority than IVR, and IVR has higher priority than CTI and so on.
How about PABX compared to the contact management application (basic application used in Call Center, can be in the form of database or application like CRM). We should be able to decide by using the Customer’s point of view, for instance the capability to block the card should still be there although IVR or recording system does not work. This is important to avoid financial claim from the Customer.
In deciding what is the most important process, we should look at it from the Customer’s point of view and identify what process that could not be postponed without creating any critical loss to the Customer or company. This loss parameter is a financial loss such as the responsibility to block credit card or postpaid phone service if requested by the Customer. The most important thing is to determine the fastest solution from all blocked processes in the emergency situation, and mostly the use of manual process is the fastest and safest solution.
What is the back up if knowledge base can not be accessed? What data that can still be provided manually, at least the ones related with critical processes such as blocking, and pricing information should still be accessed by the Call Center. The main objective of this solution is to continue receiving calls and we should be able to continue meeting Customer’s expectation. For instance blocking a calling card; alhtough the automatic process is not available, the manual process is the best solution that needs to be prepared.
For other processes that have been outsourced, and single source, the processes should have redundancy process or option to multi source, placing back up if the main vendor having a problem.
Identify the manual work, can we record order manually when the contact management application is not available? Or is it possible to ask Customer to contact us again with the hope that Call Center would operate with full capability then?
For Call Center that is operated by third party, it is pretty critical to decide what approach is being used by vendor to be reported to Customers who are using the outsourcing agency. On the other hand user should be more tolerance if the service is degrading in the emergency situation, and the Customer may request multiple sites as the feasible solution to ensure that our Call Center continuously operate. In this case, the needs of vendor to have access to multiple sites Call Center and load balancing feature will be significant for the company.
People Layer as the Most Important and Foremost Component
I am confident that reader will agree that People – Call Center Team, including yourself is the most important aspect that their safety should be put first.
To develop a plan for People Layer, starts with the following steps:
- Involve your senior management and determine one Chief Commando when an emergency situation occured, he/she is the one who will lead to declare the closing of Call Center’s operation and send the staffs home, so that no further confusion and ambiguity. It is recommended to have only one lead commando in order to save time. In an emergency situation time is very critical and important.
- Identify key personnel, decide who as the warden in Call Center for each floor/location, who will be responsible to disseminate information, if Call Center staff is being relocated, who will lead all the personnel in the new location or in the temporary evacuation location.
- Discuss with your Security team, how to exit from the Call Center location to the established safety point, how to handle employees in the emergency situation. Study and follow the requested steps.
- Ensure that all floors where Call Center located follow the evacuation procedure, evacuation flow is mapped out clearly and included in the Real Time Management plan (or so called Daily Managing Contact Center in 1-6-8 Best Practice Approach Model). Show this plan in one big paper and attached it to the wall, so that it would be a part of your Call Center’s Daily Managing Contact Center.
- Identify and arrange MoU if possible with nearest hospital and nearest hotel or apartment. Whenever Call Center staff required a treatement or being evacuated, those location is the target for meeting or evacuation point.
- The communication flow in emergency situation and who is in charge should be printed out in big posters and shown in visible locations to be a guidance when a crisis take place.
A few basic guidance that can be used:
- Follow direction to monitor information through the established communication line, such as the concept in Multi Level Marketing in announcing the work schedule change. For example, you send SMS to 3 staffs and the 3 staffs will diseminate the information to the other defined 3 staffs. You should have a complete list of phone numbers or mobile numbers and it should be updated continuously. This list will definitely help us in our daily operational.
- Follow the established Emergency Instrucstion, allow one Chief Commando to make decision. Emergency processes should be identified by each force majeure type, and by other type of emergency situations such as earthquake, flood, riot or other condition such as bomb explotion in the location near you.
The following is the sample of standard procedure based on my 15 years experience in the Call Center:
- Assign who will be the emergency team that will be on duty (usually men or those who live near the office location; not being discriminated but in my country Indonesia, it’s quite common that women will get priviledge).
- Send home the team that will not required to work Put announcement in PABX in accordance to the situation to filter the number of incoming calls, hopefully Customer will understand if there is a decreasing service in this emergency situation. If IVR does not work and PABX still can operate will, you can decide when to turn on the PABX’s announcement to replace the IVR.
- Supporting Team from other division can help out as Call Center staff while Logistic team can help to prepare Call Center staff needs such as food supply. For instance during Jakarta May 98 Riot (The unrest that took place in Jakarta Capital City in May 1998), supports from other divisions are really needed to assist the team with night duty or to help prepare the nearest accomodation.
- Decide what service will still be served and what additional service that is informative and not required immediately by the Customer.
- If you have secondary Call Center site, you may come to a situation where you should stop the main Call Center operation, you can directly route the traffic calls to the second site.
Multiple Site Call Center as Solution in the Emergency Situation
We can explore the option of having secondary site Call Center as the back up of the main one. If we would like our Call Center to have a perfect back up, then the solution is to duplicate the Call Center in other location. However, the duplication does not need to be 100% exactly the same, it is enough by providing ordinary office space, telephone set, standard application without CTI or even only half capability of the main Call Center. If this is the choice that you should identify the main and critical processes should be put first for resolution purpose compare to other that still can wait. The agreement with certain outsource vendor to handle Customer when an emergency situation occured is also considered as a solution of multiple site Call Center. The author once has come across an agreement between 2 divisions of Call Center, each has different function but can back up each other in the emergency situation as their locations are in 2 different areas and they formulate this together.
Some of the imporant things need to be kept in mind in establishing the second Call Center are:
- Discontinued electricity supply is one of the most common system problem in certain area. The damaged due to electricity off is one of the most hardest damage that can not be restored, which cause the hardware damaged, and sometimes it is very expensive and needs to be replaced and our data needs to be deleted.
- Multiple collective connection to trunk, network, or other component can also cause collective failure so that system become more susceptible. Involve your IT team in this initiative
Audit Solution for Call Center’ DRP
After you establish the DRP, do not forget to audit the prone points and prepare solution to complete the DRP strategy into 2 main parts:
- Rehearsel – rehearsel – rehearsel or Contigency Plan Testing. All Call Center staff should understand and participate in the rehearsel by groups so that each staff knows their roles. Plan what should be done in emergency situation with one Chief Commando to lead in this kind of situation.
- Audit UPS to ensure the power supply is not discontinued and try to protect all the critical components to sustain the continuity of your business.
Note: this article is published in www.ContactCenterIndonesia.com
Publish Date: May 14, 2011 9:04 AM