Disaster Recovery in the Contact Center

Disaster does not have to come to an enterprise or contact center in the form of a major natural disaster worthy of CNN coverage such as an earthquake, tornado or hurricane. Disaster in the workplace can come in the form of a heavy snow or ice storm, a power outage, loss of potable water or a backhoe digging up telecom fiber across the street.  Anything that renders employees incapable of working is a disaster and responsible organizations should plan for such an event.

An enterprise or contact center that spends the time and energy to create a disaster recovery (DR) or business continuity (BC) plan is very wise to do so and should plan for differing eventualities that could happen, rate their impact and then rate their likelihood and build a plan around those elements that are both highly impacting to an organization and also fairly likely.

Those in hurricane or flood zones may plan differently than those in the Midwest where tornados are the bigger threat. Whatever the likely event, an organization should understand what to do if employees cannot access their office workstations or if the contact center loses electricity.

I recommend a very functional plan that is more step by step – regardless of the disaster, what is to happen first, second, third after the disaster is over. Things like checking on employees, checking for fire or other situations that would cause an evacuation.  If the building is safe to occupy and employees are safe and well, then a quick triage of production systems may be next: phone systems, call routing applications, CRM systems and so on. A validation that dial tone exists, electricity is on or else UPS systems or backup generators are engaged would be next and so on.

A few things to consider as you approach your plan:

If production systems need to be repaired or replaced, is there a protocol during a disaster to purchase them?  Equipment and application vendors should be documented so they can easily be contacted and appropriate service levels should exist to get new equipment dispatched to get systems back online.

Approval processes for purchasing equipment should be in place when normal processes cannot be engaged.  It should be known who in the organization can purchase what dollar amounts without approval if the CFO cannot be reached and purchase orders cannot be signed etc.

Getting computer systems and telephones back online quickly is critical to the organization’s continuity as they are typically the life blood of the organization’s revenue stream in taking sales orders, servicing customers and retaining customer loyalty etc. and should be prioritized over back-office systems such as billing systems, accounting systems, HR systems and so on, but those back-office systems should also be documented in the plan, just at a lower priority.

Volumes have been written on disaster recovery/business continuity, templates exist for purchase to create such plans and experts on the topic will provide much more value than the simple ideas you’ll see here, but the point is to assign an owner to create the plan, gather the information and publish something, even if it’s not perfect in its initial draft – it is certainly better than having nothing in place.

Without an owner, it will never get written.  Remember when everyone owns it, no one owns it and it simply will not get done. This may be an opportunity to hire an outside consulting firm that specialize in this. Even though the price tag may look high at first, think of the cost of not having a plan or the salary dollars associated with many employees in the organization taking a stab at it over months and months.

In part II of this series, I will discuss some things you can do in your organization to ensure a decent level of business continuity in the contact center solutions and telecommunications arena, so stay tuned.