Article : After a Hellacious Last Year, 2018 Hurricane Season Rolls Out
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.
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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.
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About Working Solutions:
With 20 years of success, Working Solutions is a provider of home-based contact center solutions. The company’s on-demand workforce includes sales, customer service and technical experts—with 110,000+ agents registered nationwide. They deliver fast-flex business process outsourcing (BPO) services for clients and their customers across diverse industries, such as healthcare, retail, travel and hospitality.
Published: Friday, August 3, 2018
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