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Disasters Happen

Disaster can happen at any moment and at any time.   The company who managers your call center can suffer from storms, fires, floods or worse.  No matter what the disaster you need to have a plan in place to be ready in case disaster strikes.

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It doesn't matter where your outsourcer site is located; it is at risk of a disaster. That disaster may be from a utility outage, storm, flood, fire, quake, volcano, or act of violence.  Moreover, disasters usually don't happen as a single event.  They involve multiple facets. For example, storms may involve flooding or heavy snow with the loss of electricity and/or communications.

No matter what the disaster, you and your outsourcer need to have a plan for business continuity and disaster recovery. The plan should pre-define what personnel will do to reestablish operations during an emergency at your outsourcer facilities.

Even as you plan, these pre-defined procedures should not to be interpreted as the only course of action. In most cases, they should be overshadowed by common sense or modified by the conditions of the particular emergency. Also recognize your planning will not remain static.  You will need to amend your planning to reflect changes in your operations and that of your  outsourcer. 

As you plan, recognize that disasters have different levels of severity: minimal loss, partial loss, and complete loss.

Minimal loss can be a temporary loss of a utility such as water, electrical, or communications. It may also be a weather-related closure without damage to facilities or loss of staff. In a minimal loss scenario, there may be little to do but work with the utilities or wait for the weather. If the loss impacts operations for more than a day, you need to have a plan for an alternative site with the ability to take the calls for the stricken site.

Planning should be part of your outsourcer selection. Pick one site in a warm southern climate and another in the northern climate, because hurricanes and snowstorms rarely happen at the  same time.

If your outsourcer is offshore, be sure their site has alternative power supplies such as an uninterruptable power supply and generators. An alternative water supply is also good planning since facilities without water can be just as disruptive as a lack of electricity.

Minimal loss planning should include the impact of pandemics such as the avian flu, SARS, and other unpublicized diseases. For example, in 2009, The World Health Organization estimated the global H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak could infect 2 billion over the course of the pandemic.  The flu may not be destructive to your outsourcer's call center, IT systems, or facilities, but they can a severe impact on your workforce.

Planning for pandemic emergencies should provide the option for agents to work at home to prevent the spread of infection. You will need to plan for the shift in network loads for agents who remotely login and an alternate means of voice communications to continue normal call flow.

Partial loss of a physical location requires planning to reorganize the work. Planning for a  partial loss is similar to a minimal loss scenario except that you need to deal with damage to facilities. Recovering from a partial loss may mean moving agents to an undamaged portion of the building, but emphasis should be to the safety and well-being of personnel.

Complete loss denotes the full destruction of a call center site and equipment. Planning for a complete loss requires the relocation of operations for an indefinite period of time while  reconstruction of the facility is performed.

Detailing the action for each of these levels is sufficient for planning. However, to ensure that plans can be invoked when actual disasters happen requires testing. Disaster recovery testing determines how well you have planned and requires a heavy investment in time and manpower. If the test doesn't work, your teams must find the flaw and retest. ThusFeature Articles, you and your outsourcer should recognize the resource commitment to configure networks and communications for the test and to return the configuration to its normal state.

© 2011 Geoffrey Best.

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This excerpt, courtesy of Editor Laura Lowell, is Rule 41 from "42 Rules for Outsourcing Your Call Center by Geoffrey A. Best".  Geoffrey A. Best has worked with call centers for over 20 years.  His experience has provided him with insight into the systems and methods that companies use to operate their call centers and service their customers.   You can learn more about Geoffrey and purchase the book at

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