The Calm Before the Business Storm

Contact centers can be very complex environments when it comes to hardware, software, and technology. With myriad applications, routers, and switches all housed under the same customer service hub, if even one piece falls by the wayside it can have serious implications. Factor in a significant incident or a truly unexpected disaster and you may find yourself in a world of trouble -- and many contact centers aren’t adequately prepared, according to new research from DMG Consulting, a West Orange, N.J.–based provider of contact center and analytics research, market analysis, and consulting.

According to DMG's inaugural report on this subject, “Business as Usual?: A Benchmarking Study of Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity for Contact Centers,” 63.3 percent of respondents say they are not fully confident in the effectiveness of their companies' disaster recovery (DR) or business continuity (BC) plans. Even worse? The study finds that 20 percent -- one out of every five contact centers -- have no DR or BC plans in place whatsoever.

“It is just startling and striking how few organizations are addressing this issue,” says Donna Fluss, founder and president of DMG Consulting. “This is a call to action for [both] contact center and enterprise [managers]. The costs of one outage can more than exceed all the cost of doing the testing on a consistent basis.”

Fluss explains that it's hard for many company executives to rationalize the effort and cost required to plan for either a man-made or natural disaster. “It takes a lot of time to do these plans, and you’re investing a significant amount of resources for something that is highly unlikely to happen,” she continues. “So people are rolling the dice when they don’t invest…and basically think, ‘It’s not going to happen to me.’ ”

That’s just the problem, though. Fluss maintains too many just think about “acts of God” such as hurricanes and tornadoes, or man-made calamities such as terrorist attacks and war. As a result of that complacency, basic testing of core contact center infrastructure and related technologies falls by the wayside. Don't think companies can be that cavalier about mission-critical systems? Guess again: Of the respondents who said their firms had DR or BC plans in place, only a minuscule 4.7 percent admit to testing those systems at least once a month.

Testing applications and systems, as well as ongoing verification of applications and call flows, are two important pieces that must not be ignored, according to Fluss. “It’s the smaller things that cause us to crash and burn way too frequently,” she says. “What’s frustrating about it is that they are totally avoidable.”

According to DMG's survey results, 45.6 percent of companies test the interoperability of contact center solutions only when new software or enhancements are added; of these, only 49.7 percent are confident the testing has been thorough enough to pass muster. Making matters worse, Fluss says, is the fact that many developers focus only on unit testing -- assessing each singular application in a proverbial vacuum -- not when intertwined with other applications in the contact center. “If you miss out on the integration testing…you miss some very important issues,” she says. “Nobody’s doing this with bad intentions, but they are just not thinking through all of the implications, which can be very significant.” 

Fluss says the technology to conduct the testing is readily available, but that some executives still do not believe contact centers are sufficiently essential to warrant the effort. As a result, contact centers are frequently left out of any conversations relating to technology-testing or disaster-recovery planning. To Fluss, this is misguided. “Contact centers are mission-critical,” she declares. “In times of calamity and challenge, people reach out to organizations in unprecedented numbers. If the customer can’t reach [someone], they will be upset.”

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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