Dos and Don’ts of Call Center Disaster Planning, Recovery

Greg Levine

One of the keys to success in managing a call center is being prepared for the chaos and destruction that lurks around every corner in this dangerous world. Despite the constant threat of total catastrophe and mayhem, many call centers don’t have a formal disaster recovery plan in place.

It isn’t clear whether the leaders in such centers are unaware that complete calamity could strike at any second, or if they are aware of it but simply don’t know how to deal with it. Assuming the latter is the more common case, I’ve decided to share several tips on developing an effective disaster recovery plan. Follow this list of "do’s" and "don’ts" to ensure that your call center has at least a snowball’s chance of surviving the cataclysm that will likely befall it soon.

DO organize a Disaster Recovery Task Force to develop and oversee the implementation of your call center contingency plan. The task force should be composed of managers, supervisors, agents, IT specialists and a good bartender, and should come up with recovery guidelines for a variety of disaster scenarios, including an earthquake, extensive system failure, or center-wide hangover following a staff barbeque. Be sure to select a leader of the task force, as having a single individual in charge helps to keep everybody focused and ensures that there is somebody to blame outright should the recovery plan fail miserably.

DON’T select an outsourcer located in the same zip code as your call center to handle customer contacts during disasters. If your center is scooped up by a tornado, you’re going to need a company that still has a roof and walls to pick up your slack. Agents at outsourcing firms are under enough pressure as it is without having to worry about dodging shards of flying glass during calls.

DO take advantage of your own resources if your organization has more than one call center site. Having multiple call center locations is the best way to minimize damage during a crisis situation. Meet with managers of each call center site to discuss such important disaster planning issues as emergency call-routing processes, data security, customer notification, and how to have a panic attack without your agents knowing it. If your company currently has only one call center, start looking on craigslist for good deals on some used ones.

DON’T forget to put the plan in writing, and make sure it contains short and concise sentences that clearly state each step because if it contains long and complex sentences then it becomes harder to understand and thus increases the likelihood that your call center will be unable to react quickly in the event of a disaster and stuff like that. Clarity and brevity are key.

DO educate the entire frontline regarding the disaster recovery plan. It’s important not to leave your agents in the dark – there will be plenty of time for that when a hurricane or flood destroys all the power lines in your area. Make sure your agents fully understand the plan and their specific role in it. Occasionally test the plan by screaming "Fire! Fire!" and observe how agents react under pressure. Such drills are most effective if you are able to hide your giggling.

Speakers at the 2011 Government Contact Center Summit will be sharing how they respond to disasters. Is your call center ready? Check out the agenda and star-studded speaking faculty and register today!