The pandemic has reinforced the importance of effective crisis management for contact centres. For many, a solid crisis management plan has allowed them to be up and running remotely in a matter of weeks, sometimes days, or even hours. Unfortunately for others, the pandemic has highlighted inadequacies in their crisis management plans that have hindered business continuity as we face a continuing predicament.
You may still be catching your breath; however, now is an excellent time to review and update your crisis management and contingency plans while recent events are fresh in your mind.
The following seven considerations will ensure your revised plans are as comprehensive and useful as possible.
1. Which aspects of your crisis management plan were successful, and where are the gaps?
Collect feedback from as many stakeholders as possible, including your front-line employees, clients, and suppliers about which components of the plan worked well and which did not, and suggestions for improvements.
You can do this via structured surveys, interviews, or group feedback sessions. Be sure to keep a record of everyone’s responses so that you can refer to them later.
2. Which aspects of your contact centre’s crisis management plan are now business as usual?
The pandemic’s ongoing and unpredictable nature has transformed certain contingency options into ‘business as usual’ practices. For example, providing employees with laptops, using cloud-based technologies, and improved security to enable a hybrid office/home working operational model is now the norm for many organisations.
McKinsey and Company recently offered six ‘imperatives’ to help customer care organisations move from immediate crisis management into stability:
- Manage customer expectations with regular communication
- Reinforce culture and engagement with employees
- Establish and maintain a crisis ‘control room’ or control group
- Scale an effective remote working model
- Expand the adoption of digital self-service options for customers
- Increase workforce flexibility
By addressing the above as part of your day-to-day operational plan, you can protect your organisation against future interruptions to business continuity.
However, as your operational landscape changes, so too should your crisis management plan. The focus may be less about service continuity and more about employee engagement and training, and customer communication, care, and satisfaction.
3. Is your contact centre technology up to the task to handle a major crisis?
The stability of your technology infrastructure during a crisis directly impacts your team members’ ability to serve customers and can be the difference between good outcomes and sheer frustration for all parties.
The recent crisis has forced some contact centres to undertake rapid digital transformation to enable remote working, handle higher call volumes using automation and IVR self-service, and scale up their workforce.
Take stock of the technology you use both during and outside a crisis and ensure it is fit for purpose, secure, and easy to deploy when needed.
Moving to secure cloud-based contact centre software will make crisis management more straightforward. Having customer data easily accessible on a single cloud database or via two-way integration between cloud-based programs eliminates disruptions from transferring work between physical locations. It also helps scale up your team quickly. Contact centre staff can continue to work as one team as information is shared instantly, and supervisors can manage performance from any location.
With contact centre trends moving towards cloud-based solutions and remote working, security is a concern. You may need to consider the following:
- Providing secure Wi-Fi for remote working
- Virtual private networks (VPNs)
- Multi-factor authentication to verify customers’ identity
- Dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) technology or secure smartphone payment technology
- Call recording to ensure adherence to security protocols
Even if you’ve equipped each agent with a laptop, extra screen, and quality-assured headset for remote working, it is wise to purchase additional equipment to keep on a separate emergency register. Ensure that each set of equipment includes the correct power-tested cables and power-surge protectors.
Internally, check that the wiring, cabling, and back-up power sources to your servers and desks are in good order and instructions are included in your crisis management plan should a natural disaster knock out your power supply.
4. Have you included crisis management measures for HR to protect employee motivation and well-being?
We know now that crisis can last longer than a few weeks, so work with HR to develop short- and long-term crisis support measures, including:
- Regular employee updates via email, intranet, and SMS
- Regular group video calls and team chats via Zoom, Slack or Teams for example
- One-on-one calls with each staff member to chat about their well-being
- Both gamified and traditional online training options to maintain engagement
- Flexible working hours policies or changes to scheduling policies
Be aware that your supervisors may require specific training on managing teams remotely. Using cloud-based contact centre software with real-time dashboards and in-built performance management features will make life easier for everyone.
Finally, discuss expectations about achieving KPIs during a crisis with your client or executive team. Be realistic – your usual metrics could be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve and may put your front-line customer service team under undue stress.
5. Have you included sanitising and cleaning measures in your new plan?
Viral pandemics, fire, and flooding all pose health risks from contaminated surfaces, so cleaning and sanitising procedures (including handwashing and mask-wearing) should have a permanent place in your crisis management plan.
If staff have returned to your office environment, make sure everyone has easy access to sanitisation supplies such as wipes, hand sanitiser, masks, and cleaning products.
6. Do you have manual procedures in place if the lights go out in your contact centre?
If your office suffers a power, phone, or internet outage (or all three), having manual contingency procedures mapped out will ensure your team members can continue to assist customers.
Print and store these manual procedures in an easy-to-reach place both on- and off-site. An emergency phone and email list accessible via smartphone is also a wise measure to help supervisors disseminate information about emergency measures to staff.
Your crisis management plan may also include designating a team member to create and send FAQ sheets (via email, text, or hard copy depending on the power and connection situation) to assist customer service representatives in communicating consistently with customers.
7. Have you scheduled annual crisis management plan testing?
Finally, the only way to know if your crisis management measures work is to test them. You may choose to run annual drills or consider holding a crisis test day to evaluate your plans more extensively.
To ensure you make the most of your testing time, prepare checklists for everyone, so they know what to do and what you expect of them.