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“Weathering the Storm” – How Contact Centres Can Protect Themselves

In Britain, we spend an unhealthy amount of time discussing the weather, but the horrendous storms of the past few months have wreaked havoc across the UK and the disastrous consequences are rightly dominating the headlines.

The storms forced many people to abandon their homes and latest estimates suggest that it will be the wettest winter on record. More than 16,000 homes and businesses have been flooded since December and storms continue to rage across Britain.

All this disruption and devastation inevitably impacts on the availability and productivity of contact centre staff, while at the same time driving up inbound call volumes. But fortunately help is at hand in tackling these challenges by utilising cloud-based contact centres to ensure complete continuity for businesses, in three main ways.

First, good cloud solutions deliver a high level of disaster recovery integrally, meaning that clients should not require significant additional cover. For clients with existing onsite customer premises equipment, cloud solutions can also provide reserve back-up disaster recovery protection.

Second, cloud contact centres allow agents to be connected to the technology platform and necessary applications from anywhere that has Internet access. Companies can therefore continue to service the client base – even in a power cut – lessening the impact of what could otherwise have been a disastrous situation, resulting in dropped calls, negative customer experiences and lost revenue.

Third, cloud-based solutions are ideally-suited to supporting homeworkers, enabling organisations to benefit from a pool of agents dispersed across a geographic territory or region that can ‘ramp up’ quickly in the event of one or more facilities going down. Businesses can bring extra staff on line to service the contact centre and its customers and then ‘switch them off again’ when weather conditions improve. Travel-to-work time can be eliminated and, in an emergency, agents can be requested to log on for an hour or so by text message. Homeworking also enables organisations to offer longer opening hours, ideal during emergency situations.

Managing in a Crisis

It is not just bad weather that is driving the uptake of cloud-based contact centre solutions. Problems caused by energy price rises, power cuts, financial scares, or issues particular to a specific business like product recalls highlight the need for organisations to scale and flex (i.e. outsource easily within the cloud) to deal with spikes in calls from worried customers. If a company launching a new product or game onto the market, they will need to scale their customer service, particularly if there are issues with distribution or supply. Indeed, if there is a sudden surge in customers contacting them for whatever reason, they will need to be agile enough to deal with this quickly and efficiently.

In all the above scenarios, using a cloud-based contact centre can offer far-reaching benefits. With a cloud-based model, organisations can use their staff much more flexibly. This is critically important because, at busy times or at times of crisis, companies need to prioritise being accessible and available on request to provide advice and reassurance.

However, it is not enough in itself to simply have high numbers of remote staff available, businesses also need those employees to be knowledgeable about the problem and its resolution.

This is where the latest workforce management solutions come into the equation, helping to make certain that the correct numbers of agents, with the right skills, are available to handle the expected daily, monthly or seasonal changes, but also ensuring that they are available during the spikes in demand, typical of any crisis situation. In this context, workforce management systems can provide much-needed ‘what if’ forecasting, so schedulers can run hypothetical scenarios; work out the likely impact on the business and plan how best to manage it.

Contact Centre Extensions

Cloud-based contact centres help organisations tap into knowledge-based workers who are expert in certain subjects no matter where they are based. Indeed, this kind of cloud capability works especially well for companies that are geographically dispersed. As long as they have a thin client sitting on a cloud-based solution, businesses can ensure that anyone based anywhere in the world on almost any device can be part of the conversation and help customers get the facts and reassurance they need.

Today, most companies have straight-through processes and business systems that allow them to operate economically with an acceptable level of customer service. It is at times of stress and crisis, however, that the service is really put to the test and customer service really needs to shine.

Companies need to focus on learning the lessons and ensure they have a proactive approach in place that enables them to respond to a rapidly evolving crisis and keep customers fully informed at all times – and cloud based contact centres provide the ideal solution.

Published in contact center workforce management