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Business Continuity Planning for CX Operations

Do you have a Business Continuity Plan for your CX operations?

The Covid-19 pandemic proved that disruptive global events could occur without notice and can have a drastic impact on your customer experience (CX) and contact centre operations. In a CX/contact centre environment – where ‘’the first impression is the last impression’’ – it is vital that there a clear guide to ensure that there is no disruption in service delivery.

However, a different situation is apparent in many CX and contact centre environments globally. In a 2021 business continuity survey conducted by Knowledge Executive with CX executives from over 250 global brands and enterprises, only 47% had any crisis communication plans or conducted regular business impact analyses. Just 40% said they have detailed plans with ranked recovery priorities.

This points to the need for CX departments and contact centres to have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place before crises occur.

In fact, this article originally published by Nightfall provides a granular guideline in compiling a BCP for all businesses. We have reframed the BCP development steps outlined by nightfall.ai in the context of global CX and contact centre operations. It demonstrates how to generate a clear, concise plan for any disruptive event going forward.

[Section 1] Plan Administration: emergency contacts, plan objectives, budget, timeline, and communication plan in the event of a crisis:

In an emergency, the objective is quite simple for your CX and contact centre business – keep your customer happy with excellent service and experience. Keeping voice and digital channels active with continued service is, therefore, imperative. A quick transition to the default-emergency set up is an important objective to prevent any service disruption. A line of communication must be planned amongst employees and management, detailing a ‘’chain-of-command’’ during an emergency event.

Your CX and contact centre managers and IT personnel need to have access to key external emergency contacts to ensure that they know exactly who to contact to restore business operations. The BCP should also have a budget in place that can quickly be activated with access to emergency funds.

[Section 2] Key Stakeholders: members of the business continuity team with their roles and contact information:

Key individuals, such as supervisors, CX/contact centre managers and senior executives, must be identified as the leaders and organisers during an emergency event. Each assigned leader or organiser within the organisation must have clear roles, including the department who will communicate to them and who the leader or organiser reports to. Employees in each department must know who their assigned leaders are in an emergency event. This will create a smooth line of communication.  

[Section 3] Business Impact Analysis: steps to analyse the main operations of the business: when one function goes down, how does it affect other operations?

The impact of an emergency event (such as the Covid-19 pandemic) on infrastructure assets, including servers, equipment, connectivity and other applications will assist in noting the potential threats and recovery costs.

The other key asset that must be analysed are people – the most crucial asset in your CX and contact centre operation. For instance, if a group of contact centre agents are infected by a pandemic, how will this affect your core business operations? What processes should be deployed in this regard?

Another asset to consider is the primary customer communication channels. These must not be interrupted, an imperative factor in your CX and contact centre business. Therefore, it is vital to identify the critical channels of communication and how they affect other segments of the business.

In the event when there is a service disruption, it also important to know the duration of the probable downtime until the continuity systems are in place. Downtime will likely cause a backlog in services; however, the full impact of it needs to be assessed and estimated.

[Section 4] Strategic Response: include proactive strategies to prevent disasters, along with immediate and long-term strategies to recover from a crisis:

During an emergency there may be an influx of queries due to the downtime period and even the impact of the emergency event on the public. The increased workload and surety of customer satisfaction can be managed by deploying several solutions. These include:

  1. Interactive Voice Response (IVR): an automated phone system technology that diverts calls to other IVR to handle calls and escalate them better.
  2. Holding calls virtually: allows customers to maintain their place in the queue without having to stay on the call. When they are next in line they are given a call-back.
  3. Voicemail and call back: ensures that customers can reach the contact centre at a better time.
  4. Web chat and instant messaging: enabling customers to communicate via alternative, digital channels.

Another short-term strategy to deal with the influx of calls is to temporarily increase the number of agent staff who can access the system virtually. This also gives internal agents leeway in the transition period and prevents large backlogs. 

An additional aid in the influx of queries is implementing virtual assistants and chat bots to process simpler queries, easing the load on human agents. Phone queries generally increase during an emergency event, so it’s also important to have detailed and easily accessible FAQs. Simple essential information, such as services offered, changes in business operations and how to process refunds should be easily accessed via the company’s website or app, reducing unnecessary voice or non-voice enquiries to the contact centre.

Intense situations can impact the physical and non-physical welfare of employees, especially in the context of Covid-19. In terms of physical welfare, measures need to be put into place to ensure the physical health and safety of employees.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic brought workers back home, it did not dissolve the responsibilities of your CX or contact centre to ensure your employees’ health against the virus. An infected employee is an unproductive employee, not to mention their safety against a potential fatality. Therefore, it is crucial to circulate health and safety guides regarding any emergency event, whether it’s a viral pandemic or another disaster.

Your workforce’s mental welfare is just as important. Mental wellbeing, stress management protocols and access to counsellors must also be circulated and accessible.

[Section 5] Training and Resources: detail what training employees need to prepare for business continuity, as well as the resources (e.g., data loss prevention software, offsite storage) to prevent a total business shutdown:

A cloud-based solution is an excellent resource in virtualising your entire business operation and data storage. Not only does it prevent the loss of data, but it also allows the entire business to shift to a distributed system. Ultimately, this creates an ideal work-from-home (WFH) environment, where agents can take calls and service customers remotely. This shift to WFH was one of the significant trends during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many businesses, including global CX and contact centre operations, are considering maintaining this trend by adopting hybrid physical and virtual working models post-Covid-19.

Some cloud-based contact centre solutions provide access to unlimited voice calling, video and audio conferencing, supervisor analytics, and predictive dialling, allowing businesses to conduct the same functions as they did in their physical location without the need for employees to be onsite.

Employees will need to be regularly trained to use this new technology effectively. When the time comes where the business is completely reliant on cloud-based solutions, the workforce will need to be adept at using the software, even from a WFH situation.

[Section 6] Testing: how often will you test this plan for efficacy?

Although it is important to develop a BCP, it is equally important to not ”set and forget” your BCP. Testing your BCP provides opportunities to identify errors, inefficiencies and miscalculations that may otherwise have been disastrous in the real event. The margins of error in your CX and contact centre operation should be practically non-existent due to the high rate of customer interaction. On the other hand, the happiness of customers is everything to your CX and contact centre business. Oversights in the BCP will result in customer dissatisfaction, putting the entire business in a precarious position.

CX departments and contact centres bear the brunt of challenges and issues when confronted by an unforeseen emergency event. Although unforeseen emergency events may not be an enjoyable experience, with the right BCP in place it can certainly be a manageable process. Weathering the storm will instil brand loyalty to your customers, as well as to your employees. 

Why BCP for CX?
According to Invensis Global Outsourcing Services, over 73% of businesses have not developed a well-tested BCP. Several CX and contact centre businesses were severely impacted during the Covid-19 pandemic, some not making it through at all. Every CX and contact centre manager should, therefore, have a BCP not only to ensure continued service but also to stand out against competitors as providing consistent, excellent service during times of distress.  
          

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