Opinion: Disaster recovery in the contact centre

Paul Fick says Disaster recovery in the contact centre will lead to more options, but planning essential

September 23, 2011

By Paul Fick, Divisional MD of Jasco Enterprise Communication.

A contact centre is operationally intensive with complex interaction between people, technology, and processes. Failure is usually business critical, halting communication and negatively impacting revenue flows, customer satisfaction, brand credibility and loyalty. Precisely because disaster recovery and business continuity have been around so long, however, there’s a solution to suit almost every contact centre, regardless of size or available budgets. Paul Fick of Jasco Enterprise Communication offers some insight and advice.

There are a number of key considerations that, if taken into account, will allow the contact centre to recover the most business critical aspects of their communication capabilities quickly. You don’t have to break the bank, but you do need to understand the risk and the options available, and select what works for you and your business.

Firstly – have a plan. Document it. Get a forum together to review it and ensure it’s feasible. Then practice it. Make sure your people know the plan, and the infrastructure and technology are in place to make it all possible.

This plan should ensure that you are able to get the basics up and running, and in most contact centres that means ‘voice’. For inbound calls, which are   likely to be customers calling in, you need an alternative path for calls to reach your organisation. Ensure that you have an agreement with your Telecoms      service provider to divert calls in case of a connectivity failure.

Do your planning in layers. Consider multiple ‘what if’ scenarios and define levels of disaster and the possible solutions to them.

After voice, access to data is usually the next priority. You will need a plan to get your applications up and running or have alternative means for agents to access the company and client data that they need access to, to respond to and log queries.

There are a number of options to address a disaster with regard to infrastructure, cloud services and people. At a technology level, it starts with redundancy. For full recovery, you need full duplication, which can be cost prohibitive. One solution is a ‘dark centre’, a facility which may be sparsely furnished with rudimentary equipment, that you can get up and running in an hour. A better bet may be fail-over to another contact centre – be it a contact centre from another division of the company or perhaps a branch in another part of the country. Or you could make provision for failover to a hosted service provider.

For every business the challenge is to find a compromise between cost and risk to the business. When a large retailer recently lost two days over the festive season due to failover problems, they lost millions. While the contact centre was previously seen as a subset of the ICT layer of a business, its complexity in terms of hard- and software, people and processes means it requires special attention. Consider the risk, the probability of that risk, and its impact – and plan accordingly.

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