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Expect the Unexpected: 10 Ways to Prepare your Contact Center for Emergencies

November 15th, 2016

Disasters are inevitable. They can come at any time and take many shapes. With hurricane season already here and winter fast approaching, it’s important to have a plan in place that protects your contact center against the devastating (and expensive) effects of communications outages.

A commonplace method for contact centers to prepare for emergencies, like a major weather event, is to build and leverage an Emergency Preparedness Checklist. As a part of their job responsibilities, industry professionals should stay current on preventative and remedial best practices. This will inform the Checklist, taking into consideration the impact an emergency will have on everything from customers to IT infrastructure. The Checklist should contain both preventative and mitigation measures. It should identify key local and internal resources who will help get everything running again, as well as backups, closures, and communications to team members and customers.

When creating the Checklist, start with common causes of outages. In Avaya's The Essential Guide to Avoiding Networking Outages, power outages top the list of leading causes of preventable outages. Seventy-four percent of power outages that were studied could have been prevented had best practices been abided. This was closely followed by lack of routine maintenance (73% of cases could have been averted had best practices been followed), software bugs (69%), hardware failures (39%) and network issues (35%).

Keeping these triggers in mind, consider adding the following preventative practices to your Checklist:

  1. Invest in an operations management tool (like our own Aceyus Director) that allows you to change the operations status of a contact center site at a moment’s notice. In emergency situations, contact routing tools that administer hours of operation and percent allocation, along with ad-hoc override capabilities can be crucial for businesses that routinely deal with high call volume.
  2. Monitor systems in real time. Schedule regular system maintenance and health checkups to determine if your facility can meet power demands and fend off other issues. Watch equipment for typical signs of compromise.
  3. Set calendar notifications so you can proactively upgrade anything approaching end of manufacturer support well in advance of the actual date.
  4. Identify the resources that will continue and recover the business in the event of an outage, the specific duties of each, and where they are located. Designate primary and secondary resources to carry out everything from damage assessments to security. Identify local agencies to turn to when emergencies strike – police, fire, government or relief agencies like the local Red Cross.
  5. Create a network map that illustrates the relationships among pieces of equipment. This can speed up resolution by illustrating and isolating outages.
  6. Have a plan set up to use your IVR in emergency situations. Notifying callers of the situation upon entry into the IVR and giving them specialized menu options can help prevent customer frustration and relieve some of the post-disaster strain on a call center. Programming FAQs into the IVR handles many of the routine calls, which frees up agents to handle more critical and non-standard requests.
  7. Secure backup media and save translations before the emergency event impacts the site. Ensuring that translations and recent changes are not lost or damaged can quicken restoration of service in the event of a damaged system. Take switch/applications, copies of back-ups and any other information off site.
  8. Review safety procedures with employees prior to the emergency event. Ask all team members to update their contact information with the company and reexamine employees across the organization who will carry the workload of employees in the affected area. Send reminders to employees that are filling in and review their responsibilities in the event of an emergency.
  9. Create a communications checklist that includes regular updates to stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers.
  10. Keep replacement parts ready for fast deployment to the affected areas, mindful that local employees might not be available to install the new pieces.

There are many approaches to mitigating the effects of an emergency but the best way is to always plan ahead. Stay current on preventative and remedial best practices and consistently revise your Emergency Preparedness Checklist anytime you feel it is necessary. Thinking “proactively” instead of “reactively” will help you protect your IT investments and avoid many common outages altogether.

The Aceyus blog is co-authored by: Ben Vesta, Vice President of Product Development and Kortney Parkman, Marketing Specialist.