Chris O’Brien at Cyara explores the critical role of incident management in contact centres and asks if you have the plan and tools you need.
Do You Have the Plan and Tools You Need?
If you could boil down the role of contact centre managers to just one job, what would it be? Supervising agents? Ensuring everyone is well trained to handle calls? Keeping the lights on?
Those all may be important aspects of running a call centre, but none of them quite captures the main event. For call centre managers, there is one central goal: ensuring a seamless, enjoyable customer experience.
Can every customer get from dial-in to hang-up quickly and smoothly and have their issue resolved without interruptions or headaches?
In that sense, you could boil down the job to this one thing: incident management. A call centre must prevent incidents that derail the customer experience — and address any incidents that do arise quickly and effectively so they don’t become serious problems. If this job doesn’t get done, the call centre is in trouble.
But, if incident management is job one, what does it entail? And how do you ensure it’s done well? Let’s take a look.
Incident Management Defined
In basic terms, an “incident” is any instance in which a business’s services aren’t functioning properly. In a customer-facing environment like a call centre, that means any interruption or malfunction in customer service.
As contact centre managers know, these incidents can take many forms. It’s the caller who gets sent to the wrong agent or the customer who has to wait an hour to get one simple question answered.
It’s the outdated service menu that provides irrelevant options for callers. It’s the backlog of calls that never should have been routed to agents in the first place. The list goes on.
Incident management is the system you have in place to prevent these issues and stop them from escalating into bigger problems that cause serious customer frustration.
It has to do with the software and processes you use to monitor CX, prioritize problems, isolate issues, and address them in a timely manner. When done properly, incident management means maximizing positive customer experiences and minimizing downtime.
The Impact of Poor Incident Management in Call Centres
To get a better grasp of what incitement management is and how it works, let’s consider what happens when it’s not executed well.
In one sense, any single customer service issue is a problem for a call centre. One dropped call can create enough irritation that a customer gives up or leaves a bad review. When these incidents multiply, though, it can reach code red quickly.
Call centre staff all know what code red is: the SEV1 error. Whether it’s caused by a software defect or an IVR error, the result is the same: a backlog of calls and customer frustrations boiling over.
When it reaches this level of severity, it’s all hands on deck to fix the issue, and that often leads to overtime costs. The resulting downtime can cost an average call centre $100,000 per hour.
The Key Stages of Incident Response
Those are obviously costs any call centre manager wants to avoid. Yet, preventing SEV1 errors and other CX lapses requires a careful plan for incident management and response. Traditionally, a comprehensive plan covers five stages.
As much as you’d like to prevent any issues from occurring in the first place, that’s not a realistic outcome. It’s essential to assume issues will occur and prepare your team for dealing with them when they do.
First and foremost, this means having clear operational guidelines for incident response and ensuring all staff — from agents to IT — are trained in those procedures.
What are the proper lines of communication when there’s an outage? If there’s a bug leading to misrouted calls, what steps do you take to isolate it and address it? What systems do you have to detect threats as quickly as possible?
That last question leads to the next stage in incident management and response: monitoring. All too often, call centres don’t discover problems until they’re hearing about them from a chorus of angry customers. Monitoring is designed to allow them to catch those issues before they create a murderous mob.
When you have an effective monitoring solution, you’re not waiting for customers to report their frustrations. You’re experiencing the journey with them in your live IVR environment. You catch any hiccups as they happen, whether it’s voice quality, call routing, menu complexities, or anything else.
This is best accomplished with automated monitoring software. The task of detecting potential incidents in a live IVR that’s managing thousands of customers at any given time is too complex and time-consuming for manual labor.
Monitoring alone isn’t enough to rectify issues and prevent future problems. You have to isolate the incidents as you discover them and analyze them to find the underlying causes.
Your monitoring tool should have a clear and comprehensive reporting dashboard that allows you to gather the data you need to delve into issues when you discover them.
IT staff must be skilled in picking apart the problems so you can work toward a solution. In conjunction with live monitoring, this should be a constant activity.
Once you have a clear understanding of the problem, your task is to contain it and resolve it. Containment prevents the issue from spreading or potentially reaching SEV1 status. It may mean temporarily rerouting one part of the system to prevent a major call backlog that could cause more damage.
With the problem contained, you can put your development team to work on rolling out a solution. Ideally, this is all happening behind the scenes without any customer awareness. At the very least, you’re fixing the issue before it reaches code red.
Getting the system back online and running smoothly is critical. But that’s not the final step. Once you’ve corrected the problem, you must turn to preventing it (or anything similar) from occurring again.
This stage involves documentation, further analysis, additional monitoring, and implementation of new solutions in development. It requires robust systems for continuous, end-to-end testing so you can experiment with IVR updates before they reach the production environment.
Do You Have the Right Tools for Incident Management?
Given its importance and the depth of forethought involved, incident management is never an afterthought in a call centre environment. From prevention to correction, it’s the top priority to ensure a high-quality customer experience.
Building an effective incident management and response system requires careful planning — and smart tool selection.