Is Your Call Center Ready for a Disaster?

By Randy Saunders

Hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, storms, power outages, terrorist threats…you never know when or how your business might be disrupted. But you do know that you must have a business continuity plan, since callers don’t stop calling just because you have an outage. In fact, often call volumes may actually increase. Your agents need to be available to callers. One negative experience and you could lose a client forever. Add to this the average number of contacts you have in a given time period, and it is easy to see how quickly the damage to your business can multiply with any outage.

Large call centers with established national or global operations typically have the resources to create redundant systems to overcome a local or even regional outage. If there is an outage or problem at one location, contacts are simply routed to the other open sites. However, small and medium-sized call centers typically don’t have the resources to build comprehensive disaster recovery plans and are left with few options other than rebuilding the system as quickly as possible.

Hosted contact centers to the rescue: Hosted contact center solutions provide call centers with a cost-effective and reliable solution that minimizes risks during an emergency by enabling agents to work from virtually anywhere. The latest hosted solutions require only a Web browser, a phone, and Internet access to provide the same complete contact center functionality as if the agents were on-site. Because all software and hardware are housed off-premise in a secure hosting facility, the “contact center” can continue to operate without disruption.

In fact, a hosted contact center can provide even greater flexibility and security than redundant physical contact centers. For instance, even if a company with multiple contact centers were able to reroute incoming contacts to one of their other centers, the remaining locations may not be able to handle the increased volumes or have the proper training to adequately handle the redirected calls. A hosted solution enables a call center to automatically route communications to available agents wherever they might be. Plus, if employees have to be evacuated, reestablishing operations is quick and inexpensive. This makes nearly any home or hotel a potential temporary outpost. The end result is the business continuity that your bottom line and your customers require.

A virtual contact center for real-world events – and a global economy: Because the hosted solution places the hub of the contact center outside of the organization, it makes the virtual contact center a reality. By strategically locating agents in geographically diverse locations, you can dramatically reduce the impact any single event could have on your operation. Far greater than even multiple contact centers, this can make your business nearly immune to local outages or disasters.

Fine Art By Hyatt is one company that can testify to the advantages of a hosted solution in an emergency. When Fine Art By Hyatt made their original decision to go with a hosted solution, a lot of factors besides emergency preparedness entered into the equation. However, when Hurricane Wilma stormed ashore less than twenty miles from the company headquarters in Naples, Florida, this ability moved to center stage. Larry Block, president of Fine Art By Hyatt, says, “Our agents in the Midwest and the western states were able to cover the phones while we were covering our heads to protect ourselves from Wilma. We never missed a beat as far as taking orders was concerned!”

Under non-emergency conditions, a hosted solution can provide unmatched scheduling flexibility for agents and managers. It enables call centers to employ the best agents available worldwide. The flexibility of hosted solutions also offers advantages during call spikes –in essence enabling your entire organization to become a pool of backup agents for unforeseen load conditions.

The importance of multichannel capability: A key component in the success of hosted solutions when addressing business continuity planning is the ability to integrate multiple channels. For example, if callers’ phones are out of service due to an outage, they will try to utilize other channels of communication, such as email, until they reach you. During Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 attack, this situation became reality as millions of telephone lines and cell phones were inoperable, yet emails could still be sent from many locations. The ability to substitute contact channels proved vital in these situations.

Also, if your call center handles utilities, certain government agencies, and other disaster related organizations, call volumes will increase during emergencies. The ability to direct callers to alternative communication channels that are operational or to agents located outside the affected area could be critical. Today’s hosted solutions make all of this possible.

Hosted contact centers on the rise: The business continuity and advantages of today’s hosted contact center solutions haven’t gone unnoticed by businesses. According to Datamonitor, hosted contact centers will be the fastest-growing sector of the market, and by 2008, they will account for 38 percent of the global market. Additionally, DMG Consulting reports that by 2007, 20 to 30 percent of all new contact center seats will be hosted. By providing an economical and viable alternative to the on-premise contact center, a hosted solution enables call centers to establish business continuity capabilities and global customer service that was previously not feasible. The end result is minimized exposure in the event of a disaster.

Randy Saunders is the marketing director for Cincom’s Customer Experience Management products. He can be contacted at Cincom’s software and services have helped clients worldwide simplify the management of complex business processes, including data management; marketing, sales and customer service; application development; manufacturing; and outsourcing. For more information, call 800-224-6266, email

Key Business Continuity Advantages of Hosted Contact Center Solutions

Some of the key benefits of the best hosted contact center solutions in a business continuity plan include:

  • The ability for agents to log in remotely and receive phone, email, chat, and fax interactions.
  • Minimal capital outlay with no hardware or software investments, typically a simple monthly per-seat licensing
  • Inherent security with off-premise hosting that places your contact center infrastructure in a secure, redundant location
  • Elimination of the expensive, time-consuming process of buying, installing, and maintaining a backup site
  • Quick, simple, and inexpensive relocation requiring only a Web browser, a phone, and Internet access

[From Connection Magazine June 2007]