Expecting the Unexpected

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With a slogan like "The Greatest Snow on Earth" emblazoned right on license plates, you wouldn't be too surprised to hear that winter storm warnings are pretty common in Utah … in the winter, that is.  Yet last week the beautiful spring weather was interrupted for a couple days thanks to a late snow storm and its accompanying warning.  It's not "supposed" to happen, but it does … and it happens more often than one would think. And although we know the unexpected happens,  when it does,  it always catchs us off-guard– wreaking havoc and gridlock.

By definition, "unexpected" things don't happen very often.  That's why it's all too easy to not spend time planning for the them.  A LOT of individuals and businesses certainly regret this attitude, however, when they find themselves suddenly in a very precarious position.  It may not be necessary to publish and maintain a 1,000 page business continuity plan, but it's a GREAT idea to think through the key issues your business could face and make sure you're prepared for most likely risks.

Floridians are generally prepared for hurricanes because they are pretty common, just as Californians aren't too surprised by earthquakes.  Certainly we should be prepared for the "obvious", but go deeper and plan for the less obvious.  Contact centers require people … usually MANY people.  What happens if the facility is unavailable (due to perhaps structural damage, flooding, or power outage)?  What if people can't get to the facility (due to mass transit strikes, fuel shortages, inclement weather, transportation infrastructure breakdowns)?  What if you don't WANT your team to come together (due to pandemics or terror threats)?

Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.  There won't be a "moment of truth" if your customers can't get in touch with you.  Being prepared with an at-home agent model can help to address many of the surprises that may occur.  Even if the at-home model isn't the primary methodology for your contact center, consider having 10 to 15% of your agents function from home just so that you know how to do it in a pinch.  inContact solves the contact routing / handling component beautifully, but delivery is just one piece of the puzzle.  An agent working from a browser-based CRM may be in great shape, but the agent needing access to resources behind the corporate VPN is going to require a bit more work to get up and running.

If it's just not possible to have any agents available under certain circumstances, consider updating call flows so they're ready to play back a pre-recorded message.  This can easily be done through inContact's flow designer software, but some customers have even gone further by allowing management to call into an inContact phone number and update the mode.  They just call in, enter a pin, and choose to put the center into "emergency mode." 

inContact can do a lot of fantastic things that help to preserve business continuity even in the face of the unexpected, BUT … you need to think about it before the unexpected actually happens.  It's always a matter of WHEN, not IF… so be prepared!