Paul Stockford, on behalf on NICE, tells us about the business continuity lessons that can be learned from the current COVID-19 crisis.
Business continuity is the plan that well-organized businesses put into play during times of events or crises that result in the disruption of normal business activities.
A well-designed business continuity plan ensures the continued delivery of critical services and products during times of uncertainty or during an unexpected interruption in daily business practices.
In the contact center industry and elsewhere, the current COVID-19 pandemic qualifies as an unexpected disruption in business activities of the worst kind.
The latest guidance from the US government Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends social isolation for any group gatherings larger than ten people and the contact centre industry is scrambling to comply.
With most contact centres having notoriously tight working quarters for agents and supervisors, and shared workspaces and equipment in contact centres that operate around the clock, these are conditions that demand immediate action in order to address the potential spread of the COVID virus.
The immediate and obvious solution for contact centres under today’s crisis circumstances is to establish or expand a work-at-home plan for agents in order to comply with CDC recommendations and ensure social isolation for the agent workforce.
Contingency plans such as these, however, should not be the sole responsibility of the contact centre operator. The contact center should expect its systems and software vendors to have skin in the game as well. This is where business continuity planning comes into play.
But what should a customer expect of a vendor in terms of business continuity? In the contact centre industry, there are several business continuity questions that should be asked of any solutions provider, including but not limited to:
- Does your platform allow my agents to work from home with all capabilities operational?
- How do we handle the spikes or swings in contact volume during the crisis?
- What will you do if our geographic location is harder hit than others during a time of emergency?
- Can contact volume spikes be smoothed by transferring contacts to other channels; e.g. moving voice enquiries to digital channel responses?
- How will my contact centre be served in the event of network or voice services outages?
- Is the vendor’s own business able to operate effectively when its key locations are closed?
It is imperative that your equipment and software suppliers be able to succinctly provide you with answers to these, as well as company-specific, questions in order to ensure business continuity.
There are many benefits to a well-executed business continuity plan for the contact centre, including, in the case of the COVID pandemic, saving lives.
Contact centres that send employees home to work are compliant with the CDC’s social distancing and isolation recommendations and, by extension, are doing their part to prevent the spread of the virus through close contact with others.
The CDC believes social distancing will assuredly save lives as medical experts continue to work toward bringing the virus under control.
From a purely business perspective, contact centres that work with suppliers that have a comprehensive business continuity plan in place are in a better position to maintain the value of their brand and industry reputation in the event of a disruption in business.
Relying on a vendor with a well thought-out business continuity plan provides the contact centre with assurance that their business won’t appear to be incompetent in the face of a crisis, and that their vendor will be there with them to ensure a smooth recovery once the crisis ends.
An often-overlooked benefit of your vendor having a comprehensive business continuity plan is that it provides you, the contact centre, with a competitive advantage.
Executing on a business continuity plan in the event of a disaster sends the market a message that your contact centre is going to survive regardless of what happens.
The importance of having an executable business continuity plan available through your equipment and software supplier cannot be overstated.
As the current COVID pandemic has amply demonstrated, disasters can strike at any time and without warning. This is the ideal time to take stock of your vendor’s business continuity plan so your contact centre will emerge unscathed at the other end of the calamity.