Why every contact centre needs a business continuity plan

20 May 2020 Consultancy.com.au 5 min. read
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Call centres live or die by one key asset: their people. As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to unfold, Australian businesses need to have plans in place to ensure customer enquiries can continue to be resolved, no matter what, writes Audrey William, a Principal Advisor at technology research and advisory firm Ecosystm. 

The Covid-19 crisis has upended economies and societies, here in Australia and around the world, in just a few short weeks. Contact centres are not immune to the contagion. In common with other businesses and business units, they face the very real threat of being shut down – for weeks or even months – if a team member is diagnosed with the virus.

Having a business continuity plan which enables contact centres to continue to interact with customers and resolve their enquiries – whether by phone, email, web chat or social media – in an acceptable time frame is critical. Some of the issues that should be considered when developing such a plan: 

Every contact centre needs a business continuity plan

Enabling agents to work from home

Remote working has become a universal phenomenon since the advent of Covid-19. It can be possible for agents to do their jobs as efficiently from home as they do from a central location, provided the environment is conducive to working without distraction and the right technology is in place – think good connectivity, reliable network and high-quality headset. 

Ensuring the security of data and monitoring agents’ performance when they’re off-site are both concerns which organisations unaccustomed to remote working will need to address.

Many have yet to do so – Ecosystm research shows more than a third of organisations do not have provision for agents to work remotely, although current circumstances are likely to spur many to action. 

Managing activity fluctuations

The Covid-19 crisis has resulted in significantly higher call volumes for organisations in some industries, including healthcare, travel and financial services. For omni-channel call centres, being able to deflect voice calls to alternative channels when the lines are running hot can prevent unacceptably long wait times and enquiries going unanswered. 

The implementation of cloud computing architecture can make it easier for organisations to scale up and down in response to fluctuating call volumes but Ecosystm research shows many call centres have yet to make the switch. Only a third have their contact centre solutions running entirely in the cloud, while two-thirds say they have partial cloud solutions in place. 

Coordinating back-up locations

Outsourcing and offshoring have been the name of the game in the contact centre industry for many years now but the Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated the risks associated with placing too many eggs in the one basket, whether that basket be at home or abroad. Being able to switch operations to an alternative location, should lockdown provisions or a Covid-19 diagnosis knock a contact centre out of action, is imperative. 

So, too, is the ability to split call centres into multiple locations, or to isolate agents into discrete floors or clusters, to minimise their contact with colleagues. 

Updating and automating routine notifications

In uncertain times, too much information is never enough. Making that information easy for customers to access, without having to pick up the phone, can do much to prevent contact centre overload. Publishing a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs), along with details of any changes to the business’s operation and services, its refunds policy and where to seek help, and pushing it out to customers via the web site and messaging apps means fewer calls and queries. 

Easing the burden with intelligent technology

If they’re well designed, virtual assistants and a conversational AI platform can help some customers resolve their issues satisfactorily, without the need for agent intervention. That’s a big ‘if’ – historically, many such solutions have been poor substitutes for human smarts, even when the queries posed are routine. It’s not quick fix technology – getting a virtual assistance platform up and running takes time and testing – but it’s worth investing in getting it right, given its potential for relieving the burden on contact centre agents when a crisis occurs.

Keeping the heart of the business beating

The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the critical role contact centres play in helping businesses and organisations to keep on, keeping on, irrespective of the disruption that may be unfolding all around. Without a robust business continuity plan, their ability to do that is left to chance and, in challenging and uncertain times, that’s a risk few organisations can afford to take.