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Article : After a Hellacious Last Year, 2018 Hurricane Season Rolls Out

#contactcenterworld, @WorkingSol

After a Hellacious Last Year, 2018 Hurricane Season Roils Out

Something Wicked this Way Comes. Is Your Contact Center Ready?

By April Wiita, Vice President of Program Success, Working Solutions

Aftermath is an ugly word, isn’t it? One that contact center leaders dread and sure don’t want to hear this hurricane season, running June 1 through November 30.

The mere mention invokes images of disrupted customer service, at best—or operational disaster, at worse. In a word, consequences, especially for the inexperienced or unprepared. Either way, the outcomes can be dire.

After more than 20 years in this industry, I’ve worked with clients and served their customers through the likes of Sandy, Matthew and Harvey—and dozens of other hurricanes, blizzards and floods.

And when the worst seems behind us, something just as onerous happens, ravaging everything and everyone in its path, with ramifications felt long afterward.

Widening Wakes: Lingering Aftermaths

A recent post by science writer Brian Kahn in EARTHER cues up the 2018 hurricane season—10 to 16 tropical storms, with "1-4 could become Category 3 or greater."

He reports that NOAA National Hurricane Center’s lead forecaster stresses dual vigilance—along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and "inland where damage from winds and torrential rain can take a huge toll."

Take Hurricane Ike, a Category 4 storm in 2008, as an example. According to the center’s Storm Surge Unit, "…the surge moved inland nearly 30 miles in some locations in southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana."

A surge’s dispersion is called the "inundation depth." A map depicts its span and severity, coded in blue, yellow, orange and red. Colorful to look at, but brutal to experience.

Given this reach: Are your contact center disaster preparedness and precautions as wide and deep? Mapped out for different eventualities—beforehand?

Because, as evidenced by recent storms, the destructive wakes are widening and aftermaths lingering.

Occurring in rapid succession, 2017 hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria did more than $250 billion in damages, extracting a profound human and economic toll. Even now, almost a year later in places such as Houston and Puerto Rico, lives still try to recover and businesses rebuild.

Fluid and Flexible: Backup to the Backup

For contact centers, which were affected by all three hurricanes, it’s not just a matter of fortified operations. That has to be a given.

Rather, they should be fluid and flexible, too. Sure, swift and staffed to outmaneuver and outlast any storm. That requires mobility, scalability and sustainability—outside, and sometimes ahead, of harm’s way.

That’s nearly impossible to do with brick-and-mortar call centers stuck in a storm’s path. A case in point is Matthew, a Category 5 hurricane. Its fury far-reaching and devastation prolonged, Matthew went from the Caribbean to the Carolinas, from September 28 to October 10, 2016.

As it hit Jamaica, a client’s brick-and-mortar call center there was evacuated, with customer service shifting to remote contact center agents in California, Texas and Wyoming.

Unrelenting, Matthew roared north, up the East Coast along Florida. Its course forcing the client’s second call in Melbourne to be evacuated, as Gov. Rick Scott warned: "This storm will kill you." Again, on-demand agents outside the storm’s swath picked up work as Floridian call center agents fled to safety.

In this instance—and for other storms as well—the client had backup to the backup. Integrated physical and virtual contact center operations to ensure nonstop service, with plenty of resources at the ready.

Questions to Ask: No Silver Bullets

Such resiliency and responsiveness must be built into the business. That requires asking the right questions, with thought-out answers and well-rehearsed plans in place.

Questions such as:

  • Have your teams run through business continuity scenarios? When was the last drill?
  • Are you prepared to evacuate agents, shift work in a disaster? Have you timed it?
  • If so, do you have enough backup agents standing by and where? Is the plan in hand?
  • Are your business partners as secure as your own operations? Have you checked?
  • Short of Armageddon, are you prepared for back-to-back disasters? Said your prayers?

Not offering any silver bullets here. Just some thoughts, based on experience—good and bad.

And yes, running a contact center every day is challenging enough. Just think how overwhelming storms and other disasters will be if business continuity is left to chance. "Oh no" shouldn’t be an operational axiom.

This hurricane season, Subtropical Storm Alberto, Hurricane Beryl and Hurricane Chris already have occurred. Other tempests await—with the names of Florence, Helene and Leslie—to blow through.

There’s still time to get ready, though. Best to be wary and wise. Wouldn’t you agree?

So, prepare contact center operations now, knowing something wicked this way comes—with several months left until the season ends.

#contactcenterworld, @WorkingSol


About Working Solutions:
Company LogoWorking Solutions is a consultative business process outsourcer providing customer service, sales, support, and flexible business continuity. Tapping into a vast network of enthusiastic brand associates across the United States and Canada, our flexible business model enables us to provide customer service on several levels–from steady state for everyday business to ready state for unexpected events to future state for long-range projects.
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Published: Friday, August 3, 2018

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