Ensuring Nonstop Customer Service In Any Season
Author: April Wiita, VP of Program Success, Working Solutions
Climate change—and the ensuing disasters it brings—is transforming business operations in every industry and geography, from storm surges along the Texas shoreline to wildfires in Tasmania.
Climate change has, in fact, become climactic, building up to bigger events and worse outcomes, with news coverage that no one wants to watch.
Be it hurricanes or bomb cyclones, this challenge is addressed in the industry analyst report by Forrester titled "Adapt to Climate Change or Face Extinction."
Nowhere is the immediate response to climate change more evident than in customer service. Hurricanes, blizzards and flooding disrupt business continuity and hamper, if not shut down, service in every sector. The headlines hammer home the realty of what’s occurring—again and again.
Caught in harm’s way, traditional call centers of brick and mortar are evacuated while virtual, on-demand contact centers shift operations away from the path of storms. For out-in-front businesses, the choice is to be mobile and modern—and not mired and mashed.
Nonstop customer service requires predictive planning and performance. To pull it off, several crucial pieces need to be in place to get ready, ride out any disaster and then recover from its aftermath. With distributed networks and fast-flex workforces, on-demand contact centers can outmaneuver any storm.\
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Planning for the Pain
Responsive operations track storms as they develop, anticipating when and where they will disrupt customer service. They sense and see what’s coming. Visualization, with FlightAware MiseryMaps, can be used to identify airports and flights where storms will cause the most delays and cancellations.
Tapped into such tools, on-demand service agents can anticipate slowdowns and backups, and not merely react to them. With information in hand, they can figure out alternate routes for travelers in advance, minimalizing delays.
Scaling as Needed
With a full-time equivalent ratio of up to 3-to-1, an on-demand contact center is a force multiplier compared to butts-in-seats service reps stuck in a physical call center. Immobility is a poor strategy as a storm changes course, intensifies and lays waste to everything in its path. Evacuation is often necessary.
On-demand service, however, can shift resources, operating outside of harm’s way. Spread out across states and even countries, remote agents can move work from place to place, ramping up 200% within a few hours’ notice—and scaling down afterward once the danger passes.
Preparing for "But When"
As climate change accelerates, from bad to worse seems to be the norm. For instance, consider the prolonged intensity of Hurricane Irma in 2017. As NPR reported, it was "the longest-lasting powerful hurricane or typhoon ever recorded, worldwide. It kept 185-mph winds for 37 hours—longer than any storm on record." Hurricanes Harvey and Maria added to the devastation that year. Talk about a pile-on.
In the face of such ferocity, ensuring continuous customer service takes even more forethought and resilience. That’s because "what-if" scenarios can turn into "but-then" realities fast. Business continuity requires real-time communications, mobile and online, as operations course-correct to maintain steady service. On-demand service again turns to tools such as STAR (strategic talent ample resources) maps. They pinpoint agent locations, calculate their numbers and availability, and schedule shifts based on a storm’s path and duration. They also learn to be glued to maps and predictive information to help a mobile, modern workforce outrun the wind.
As often happens, the dig-out after a disaster can be tougher to handle than the storm itself. At the very least, aftermath preparations should in the works as a storm rages. Best-case measures call for things being in place well before an event occurs.
That takes having a solid gasp and command of current client operations. Backed by contingencies for reserve agents to bridge any breaks or gaps till normal service is restored. This means anticipating "how many for how long" and planning accordingly.
When "Wicked" Comes
During historic nor’easters, we found the following actions were critical:
Against the backdrop of climate change, business continuity requires operating in harm’s way. And while the storm names and their intensities vary, predictive preparation remains the one constant whenever "something wicked this way comes." And most assuredly, it will come.
About Working Solutions:
Working 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.
Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2020
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