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Contact Centers Unprepared For Disasters: Study

September 09, 2008

Hurricane Gustav has just smacked Louisiana, perhaps setting up the beleaguered state for a punch from Hurricane Ike, while Tropical Storm Hanna has drenched the Atlantic Coast.

Then there are the fires, leakages from truck accidents and railcar derailments, and countless other ‘events’ that also disrupt operations and result in injuries and sometimes deaths.

At the same time there are equipment failures that can disrupt and cripple operations including in a time of need. Could a firm afford an outage of an IVR that is being used to provide employees and customers with information during a disaster?

And each day the armed forces are in Afghanistan and Iraq, laying their lives on the line, their remains being flown into bases such as Dover AFB in the US and CFB Trenton in Canada serve as a reminder of what had happened in New York City, Washington DC, and over Pennsylvania nearly seven years ago…

Unfortunately a majority of contact centers are not taking appropriate actions to minimize the impact of disasters or disruptions related to changes in their operating environments. Adding to this risk, a majority of these companies have not invested in testing and monitoring equipment to better understand, identify, and, in most cases, resolve issues before customers are affected.

Those truly disturbing revelations are contained in a new study: “Business as Usual? A Benchmarking Study of Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity for Contact Centers “conducted by DMG Consulting and sponsored by Empirix (News - Alert).

The study reveals:
 
*              Less than 37 percent of companies globally are confident that their operations can withstand a disaster or business disruption
*              60.2 percent of firms are not routinely testing their core contact center infrastructure. This leaves them open to unexpected but avoidable failures
*              Only 4.7 percent of firms test their disaster recovery/business continuity plans monthly, leaving 95.3 percent at risk of a serious meltdown in an   emergency situation
*              20 percent of contact centers do not even have a disaster recovery plan

The report is the product of an in-depth survey of 187 contact centers worldwide on their disaster planning and preparedness. It also documents these contact centers’ readiness to adapt to disruptions caused by internal system and process changes. The report benchmarks how contact centers handle disaster recovery/business continuity strategies, plans, and testing. It reflects how leading contact centers address these challenges and provides a roadmap for helping organizations improve their performance in these areas.

“While disasters are not something that contact centers can control, planning and testing can mitigate the impact on customers and business,” states Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting and the lead researcher. “Unfortunately, the majority of companies surveyed have not made adequate investments to prevent service disruptions to their mission critical service infrastructure. Companies without a contact center disaster recovery plan run the risk of alienating customers in their time of need.”

"It seems surprising that companies would have an evacuation plan in place, but not one that details how to keep business operations running smoothly should a disaster occur,” says Phil Odence, vice president of business development at Empirix. “We appreciate the honesty of all the survey participants and hope that this got them thinking about the importance of testing and monitoring the technology that supports their disaster recovery plans.”

DMG benchmarks the survey responses and defines a “leaders” category. Leading companies have well-defined disaster and contingency plans and test them on a frequent basis. They also monitor and test their core and supporting systems routinely to avoid unnecessary service disruptions. Leaders are prepared to mitigate the effects of both unavoidable disasters and system and process failures that can threaten service level agreements and the customer experience. 

This study provides best practices and recommendations to help contact centers enhance their disaster recovery and business continuity plans. It provides the steps to cost effectively transition their current operating environments to leading organizations that avoid disruptions through careful planning.

Contact center managers must have disaster recovery and business continuity plans that can keep them in operation, albeit at a lower service level, if service disruption occurs, recommends Fluss. Managers cannot prevent disasters from happening, she says, but they can limit the damage.

“Disaster recovery planning is not a favorite topic for executives or line-of-business managers,” Fluss points out. “Thinking through the measures to keep a business working after a disaster hits requires a great deal of effort, for what most people believe is an unlikely occurrence. Since the contact center is the focal point of customer-to-business interactions, they are mission-critical at all times, particularly during a disaster. Not every company will be hit by a disaster, but all contact centers have to be prepared. “

To obtain a complimentary copy of this report and learn how to prepare your contact center for the unexpected, visit www.empirix.com/drsurvey.
 
 

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet�s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan�s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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