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Article : As the Pandemic Continues: Is Your Customer Service Ready for Hurricane Season?

#contactcenterworld, @WorkingSol

Author: April Wiita, Vice president of Program Success, Working Solutions

Just when businesses are moving to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic, many must now contend with the 2020 hurricane season, which began June 1 and runs through November 30. And this year, predictions call for a more severe outlook than normal. How will your business respond and serve customers with the potential threat of multiple disasters?

In our line of work—ensuring nonstop customer service, we run the numbers, calculate the odds and allocate resources on paper and in real time. Figuring out "what if" and "then what" scenarios gives clients a measure of comfort and a sense of control when planning business continuity.

Usually, these situations come one at a time. Not today, however. Many businesses are facing two formidable foes in tandem—the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the start of 2020 hurricane season.

So now, not only does something wicked this way come, but it’s also already here—in spades.

Give a read: "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season," said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, in the most recent NOAA outlook report for the 2020 hurricane season.

The combination of several climate factors is driving the strong likelihood for above-normal activity in the Atlantic this year. This means business planning goes from "what if" to "now what?."

Just to run the numbers: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a likely range of 13 to 19 named storms, of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes, including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5). For comparison, an average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.

Like those figures? Fold in the pandemic numbers, and you can understand why it is more important than ever to develop and continuously improve your business continuity plans.


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Fluid and Flexible: Backup to the Backup

For contact centers, it’s not just a matter of having fortified, redundant operations. That has to be a given.

Rather, they should be fluid, flexible and safe. Sure, swift and staffed to outmaneuver and outlast any storm. That requires the Big Three: mobility, scalability and sustainability—from the inside out, and well ahead of harm’s way.

That’s nearly impossible to do with brick-and-mortar call centers now reduced or shut down due to COVID-19 challenges. They’re boxed in as things are closing in, caught in the pandemic’s and a potential storm’s paths.

Take hurricanes alone. A case in point is Matthew, a Category 5 hurricane. Its fury far-reaching and devastation prolonged, Matthew spanned 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 ferocity forced the client’s second call center in Melbourne to be evacuated. Governor Rick Scott warned at the time: "This storm will kill you."

Again, remote agents outside the storm’s swath picked up work as the client’s 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 on-demand resources at the ready.

Now imagine how that would play out, factoring in the double whammy of the pandemic. To survive, businesses need to be prepared times two, if not three, these days as a matter of course.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) agrees. "Social distancing and other CDC guidance to keep you safe from COVID-19 may impact the disaster preparedness plan you had in place," Carlos Castillo, acting deputy administrator for resilience at FEMA, said recently. "With tornado season at its peak, hurricane season around the corner, and flooding, earthquakes and wildfires a risk year-round, it is time to revise and adjust your emergency plan now."

And if you weren’t convinced, for good measure he adds: "Natural disasters won’t wait, so I encourage you to keep COVID-19 in mind when revising or making your plan."

In other words, prepare now to avoid being undone later.

Questions to Ask: Answers to Have

Resiliency and responsiveness must be built into your business continuity plan from the get-go. That requires asking the right questions, with thought-out answers and well-rehearsed plans in place.

As it relates to customer service, here are some bottom-line questions when developing the plan:

  • Who is involved in its creation?

  • Which other related operational areas should be addressed? IT? Communications?

  • How would you respond to the fluctuation in customer inquiries, via phone, email or chat?

  • Should you engage business process outsourcing (BPO) partners to assist?

  • What do you need to respond to multiple or simultaneous disasters?

  • When assembling your team:
    • Who from your operation leads the charge? Are they adequately trained?
    • 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?
    • Who from the client side needs to be involved?

  • Once in place:
    • Have your designated teams run through the different business-continuity scenarios? When was the last drill?
    • Are you prepared to evacuate contact center agents and shift work remotely in a disaster? Have you tried it? Timed it?
    • How stable and secure is your technology during these different scenarios? What about your business partners’?
    • Short of Armageddon, have you said your prayers?

No Silver Bullets – A Silver Lining, Perhaps

Not offering any silver bullets here. Just some prudent 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.

As the pandemic continues, the hurricane season arrives—six months long and counting. New tempests with names such as Dolly, Omar and Nana await to blow through, which could compound our current healthcare crisis.

Take heart, though. For as horrible as COVID-19 is, it has steeled businesses in their resolve to survive and succeed. Apply that resourcefulness to get ready for the 2020 storms.

And while you pray you never have to activate your business continuity plan, having one ensures you can serve your customers, especially when they need you most.

So, as you contemplate scenarios for multiple disasters, don’t perish the thought. Plan for it.

#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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Today's Tip of the Day - Make It Easier To Complain

Read today's tip or listen to it on podcast.

Published: Friday, July 10, 2020

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2021 Buyers Guide Automation

 
1.) 
Agara

Agara is an autonomous virtual voice agent powered by Real-time Voice AI. It is designed to have intelligent conversations with your customers, vendors, and partners without any assistance from human agents. It can handle a wide variety of calls including inbound customer care calls, outbound lead generation calls, appointment scheduling calls, and overdue payment recovery calls.

Agara is available for several industries including banking, insurance, retail, e-commerce, airlines, and telecom. Powered by advanced Real-time Voice AI that understands speech in real-time, automatically determines the right process to follow and guides the caller along in the process with natural conversation.

2.) 
Auraya

EVA Voice Biometrics
Powered by Auraya's patented ArmorVox engine, EVA is a voice biometric extension that provides secure and seamless identification & verification capabilities for Amazon Connect. EVA provides delightful customer experience by removing the friction of providing PINs, passwords or secret information in order to prove caller identity. EVA comes standard with active and passive modes and a simple yet powerful agent interface. This allows for personalised self-service and a more friendly and efficient experience when interacting with an agent.

Outdated security methods such as PINs, passwords and security questions have become insecure and unreliable. Forgetting passwords and security answers o...
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3.) 
Call Adapt

Soundboard Software
Call Adapt is a cloud-based digital soundboard application designed for contact centers. It works with any type of call and integrates with your existing dialer system. Powered by smart audio technology, Call Adapt gives your agents the ability to converse with customers in real time using programmed keyboard shortcuts. The result is perfect pitch delivery and less time spent on repetitive tasks.

4.) 
Consilium Software

Consilium UniCloud™
UniCloud™ is an intuitive platform that allows Enterprises to deploy and manage their Unified Communication (UC) and Contact Center (CC) services with ease and entire provisioning can be completed in seconds using this comprehensive tool supporting digital transformation. The latest release 7.0 of UniCloud™ is a multi-tenant platform that transforms the delivery, management, and integration of collaboration and contact center solutions, for both Cloud and On-Premise deployment models.
With its single-pane-of-glass views and quick provisioning tool, UniCloud™ is instrumental in reducing the time to provision an entire multi-cluster Cisco collaboration platform, including contact centers (C...
(read more)

5.) 
eGain Corporation

eGain Solve
Proven, Easy, and Guided Journey to Automate Customer Engagement in a Digital+AI World

6.) 
Emmersion

Automated Language Testing
Emmersion offers automated assessments to quickly and accurately test speaking, writing, and grammar fluency in 9 languages and counting. We help contact centers improve CSAT scores by screening for top talent and retaining top performers.

7.) 
OpsTel Services

SPEED & PLUS
The SPEED solution solves for service level issues while cost optimizing the environment with automation.

Provides an enhanced way to speed up & optimize invoking temporary agent skills configuration changes into the contact center environment.

Speed allows you to schedule both future changes & temporary changes that auto-revert back to the original state when scheduled time expires.

Speed features:

*Automated / Scheduled Temporary Agent Skills Configuration Management
*Immediate Temporary or Reoccurring Schedule Skills Configuration Changes
*Easy to Use/Operations Administration Focused
*Descriptive Monitoring Activity Dashboard
*Detailed “End to End’ Audit Trail and Perfor...
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