Disaster Recovery in the Contact Center

Disaster Recovery in the Contact Center

5 . June . 2020

Disaster does not have to come to an enterprise or contact center in the form of a major natural disaster worthy of news coverage. Disaster in the workplace can come in the form of heavy rains, a power outage, loss of potable water or a backhoe digging up telecom fiber across the street. Anything that renders employees incapable of working is a disaster and responsible organizations should plan for such an event.

This article has been put together by the research team at ZRG International. Find out more about ZRG towards the end.

An enterprise or contact center that spends the time and energy to create a disaster recovery (DR) or business continuity (BC) plan is very wise to do so and should plan for different contingencies that could happen, rate their impact and then rate their likelihood and build a plan around those elements that are both highly impacting to an organization and also fairly likely.

Whatever the expected incident, an organization should understand what to do if employees cannot access their office workstations or if the contact center loses electricity.

It would be best to develop a very functional plan that is more step by step – regardless of the disaster, what is to happen first, second, third after the disaster is over. Things like checking on employees, checking for fire or other situations that would cause an evacuation. If the building is safe to occupy and employees are safe and well, then a quick triage of production systems may be next: phone systems, call routing applications, CRM systems and so on. A validation that dial tone exists, electricity is on or else UPS systems or backup generators are engaged would be next and so on.

A few things to consider as you approach your plan:

If production systems need to be repaired or replaced, is there a protocol during a disaster to purchase them? Equipment and application vendors should be documented so they can easily be contacted and appropriate service levels should exist to get new equipment dispatched to get systems back online.

Approval processes for purchasing equipment should be in place when normal processes cannot be engaged. It should be known who in the organization can purchase what dollar amounts without approval if the CFO cannot be reached and purchase orders cannot be signed etc.

Getting computer systems and telephones back online quickly is critical to the organization’s continuity as they are typically the life blood of the organization’s revenue stream in taking sales orders, servicing customers and retaining customer loyalty etc. and should be prioritized over back-office systems such as billing systems, accounting systems, HR systems and so on, but those back-office systems should also be documented in the plan, just at a lower priority.

Volumes have been written on disaster recovery/business continuity, templates exist for purchase to create such plans and experts on the topic will provide much more value than the simple ideas you’ll see here, but the point is to assign an owner to create the plan, gather the information and publish something, even if it’s not perfect in its initial draft – it is certainly better than having nothing in place.

Without an owner, it will never get written. Remember when everyone owns it, no one owns it and it simply will not get done. This may be an opportunity to hire an outside consulting firm that specialize in this. Even though the price tag may look high at first, think of the cost of not having a plan or the salary dollars associated with many employees in the organization taking a stab at it over months and months.

Now we will focus in on a few best practices to ensure continuity in the event of a disaster, big or small.

First let’s start with the telecommunications component. Many organizations have voice T-1s or multiple T-1s running into their contact center or office environment. One thing your telecom provider can help you investigate is whether the building you inhabit has multiple fiber entrance points into the building. While certainly less common, it is fortunate when two local access providers (usually the incumbent telco or local exchange carrier (LEC) and a newer entrant into the dial tone market, the competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) ) both run feeds into the same building at differing points.

This stroke of luck allows an organization to use both local providers for the last mile on their T-1 circuits ideally running back to two unique long distance carriers in two different markets where their equipment resides. This dual redundancy allows for one local access provider and even one long distance provider, to completely lose service without severely impacting your organization. Any contact center would prefer to be down to half capacity rather than being 100% out of commission. This redundancy happens at the telecommunications infrastructure layer, but there are others to think about as well.

If your organization does not use voice T-1s but instead is using Voice over IP (VoIP), an organization can similarly protect against a single point of failure at the network level by securing two internet connections or access points into multiple managed service providers handing their IP telephony needs.

Using different protocols can be a great point of disaster recovery. An organization could have voice T-1s and TDM signaled phones behind a legacy PBX as their primary mode of communications to the world and as a backup have VoIP hard phones or software based phones activated with current credentials that could be deployed should they lose their voice T-1s or even lose their PBX system due to card failure, power supply failure and so on.

Implementing the VoIP solution by having employees log into their softphone or plugging their VoIP hard phone into a data wall jack, they can begin taking calls as if nothing ever happened. Of course this assumes the contact center solution is still online at the premise, or better yet is a fully managed, multi-tenant SaaS solution. Then you are sure to be able to use this method of back up since all of the auto attendant, call routing, screen pops etc. are handled in the cloud and not on premise.

Another form of redundancy is sending agents home to begin taking or making calls. Ideally the organizations has already identified which employees have a robust home PC and high speed internet connection with appropriate VPN access to the network, or have roving lap top computers ready to dispatch to employees who can work from home, should facilities become unavailable in the traditional contact center.

Home agents have the ability to leave the impacted building or area of disaster and go to higher ground, or areas not impacted by the power outage etc. With the proper contact center solution that is easily ready to facilitate home agents, the organization can be back up and running in a very short time, with very little additional money spent.

Some or all of these methods can be deployed to ensure a better ability to keep agents on the phone in order to take orders or service customers.

Each organization should evaluate their unique situation to decide which business continuity plans are most appropriate for the kind of business being conducted. Our advice is to make a plan and spend the money now, before a disaster situation occurs and it’s too late.

Read More
Agent Motivation and Retention

Agent Motivation and Retention

4 . June . 2020

In a recent employee survey conducted by Manpower, they discovered that 84% of respondents plan to seek employment elsewhere in 2011. Two of the main reasons for leaving were lack of satisfaction with their direct manager and with the company culture. As the economy begins to loosen, and we see a rise in jobs, how do we retain our best employees? What can we do to motivate people to stay?

Considering the answers to the above-mentioned survey, it’s clear that a company’s culture is a strong consideration in any employee retention strategy.

An organization's culture does not necessarily reflect the espoused list of values developed at an offsite meeting by the executive team and framed on the wall in the lobby. These are ideals. The culture we “claim” (vision, mission, values), may not be the true culture of the organization. It’s the organization’s DNA.
In reality, what management pays attention to and rewards is often the strongest indicator of the organization's culture. This is often quite different than the values it verbalizes or the ideals it strives for. Culture comprises the deeply rooted, but often unconscious, beliefs, values and norms shared by the members of the organization.

This means that employee engagement is crucial to the organization’s success.

What most organizations fail to realize is the impact of employee satisfaction on their customers. The Corporate Leadership Council conducted a study in which they discovered that those employees who are most committed perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave the organization. Additionally, for every 1% increase in employee satisfaction, an organization gains a 2% increase in customer satisfaction. The ramifications of this are huge to a company looking to grow in today’s market.

This is not to say companies don’t try. They just don’t know what to target. Many call centers try the carrot-and-stick approach (bonuses, contests, pizza parties, et al) and those don’t work very well.

Motivation is intrinsic. As Stephen Covey eloquently puts it, “Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.”

For example, children in a small town were given points for every book they checked out of the local library during the summer vacation. The points could be redeemed for a free pizza, in an attempt to encourage reading. The children in the program did indeed read more books than other children. But after the program ended, when reading no longer paid off in pizza, those children read far fewer books than others. Their own intrinsic desire to read books had been subsumed by the extrinsic reward, and when the pizza went away, so did the motivation.

Another example: Heart patients who’ve had double or quadruple bypass operations face a very simple choice: They must stop eating unhealthy food, smoking, drinking and working too much or they die.

Death is the ultimate negative motivation, carrying the greatest penalty for non-compliance. Yet, two years after the operation, only 10% of these heart patients managed to stick to their new habits. This is pretty strong evidence that negative motivation does not work.

One doctor, Dean Ornish, created a program where heart patients were instead taught to appreciate life (rather than fear death). They practiced yoga, meditated, received counseling, maintained a healthy diet, all aimed at making them enjoy life more. The result: 2 years later, 70% of the patients maintained their new lifestyles.

Motivation must come from within and be fostered by management in order to achieve success. Some ways to accomplish this:

• Create a framework from which to create, develop and maintain your culture strategy

• Survey your employees-what do THEY think about the culture here?

• Lead by example

• Ensure trust through honesty, availability, consistency, fairness and clear direction

• Give purpose and respect to each employee

• Capitalize on employee development opportunities

Read More
Tips for Work From Home (WFH)

Tips for Work From Home (WFH)

26 . March . 2020

Due to a variety of reasons, the concept of Work From Home is increasingly being adopted by businesses around the world.

Technically speaking, these days, any of your employee that primarily works on a computer can easily work from home.

There are several benefits that WFH model offers. For instance, foot traffic at the office location is reduced, no additional space required when adding more staff, office building related expenses are reduced, the work can continue in the event of DR and BCP, staff saves time and money by not commuting and enjoys home-made lunch, etc.

If you need to have your designated staff work from home in the most effective way, ZRG team is here to help with our experience, knowledge and solutions. Our aim is to help in making WFH strategy work for you, especially if you're doing it for the first time.

We have gathered and put together useful tips that can be used for working remotely, possibly for an extended period of time during a DR condition or due to change in business strategy.

1. Get the technology in order.
Technology is what enables remote work in the first place.

So make sure that the employee has a working laptop, cell phone and internet access device at home. Mouse and keyboard - anything that might make working on laptop for longer hours a little easier.

Next is the software. Make sure each user has the right applications. Lots of remote workers are leaning heavily on Remote access, Slack, Skype, Zoom, etc. Evaluate out what will work best for your team your office.

Of course, you'll want to make sure all your technology actually work from home. Your IT and networking teams play a major role in making it happen.

2. Make sure the bandwidth is available
Another thing? Network access - is it robust enough at home to allow you to voice and video chat or join in a conference? High speed wireless internet access is easily available from multiple providers.

To maintain stable connectivity, do not allow this bandwidth to be shared by the employee with anyone else at home.

3. The kids are alright - but they're home too.
If your employee would be working from home with kids around, then as a parent, they will need to make a plan for the education and entertainment of the kids. They can stock up on books, board games and puzzles.

Also, be flexible about how much work your employee might realistically be able to get done in a shift if they're balancing child or elderly care.


4. Manage expectations.
It is best to have a discussion with your staff about what can actually be accomplished from home.

A manager can explain what the priorities are, and should discuss how tasks will get done.

How are teams going to track projects they're working on? How will they meet to discuss this? Will everyone be connecting on Slack or email, etc? Will there be standing meetings at a certain time to get everyone coordinated?

This should be an ongoing conversation. Remember, going fully remote is a new experience for many companies and their workers.

Be honest about what isn't working or can't get done in these circumstances. More overall communication is going to be necessary.

5. Provide these guidelines to your WFH staff
If you're distractible, get ready for work every morning like you are going to physically go into work. Dress up, do your hair - whatever you'd normally do. This puts you in a professional mindset.

It's hard to draw a sharp distinction between home and office when you're at home. But to the extent possible, create a space at home that looks and feels like your office to you.

If you're the type of person who never takes a break at home, set a timer to take time for lunch, and turn off your work. Or go for a walk. If you don't change your venue at some point during the day and take a breather, it can make the claustrophobia worse. Try to maintain normal work hours, and shut things down when you would normally leave the office.

During audio calls, you can even try repeating back what you heard the other person say, to make sure you interpreted the person's meaning correctly.

You should be comfortable with using the webcam. Webcams are great to have face to face discussions and it is helpful in minimizing the sense of isolation or confusion. Screen sharing is an excellent alternative to paper based printouts.

6. Stay connected.
One undeniable loss is the social, casual "water cooler" conversation that connects people - if your staff is not used to that loss, full-time remote work can feel isolating.

To fill the gap, you can have your team leaders schedule online social time to have conversations with no agenda. Again, embracing video calling and webcams will help the staff see colleagues. Try an icebreaker over your team chat: What's everyone's favorite TV show right now? What's one good thing that someone read that day?

For comments or questions, please contact

ZRG Team
Call: +9221 3431 3222
WhatsApp: +92314 200 8000
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ZRG.INTL/
Web Chat: www.zrg.com
Skype: zrgsales
eMail: zrg-edesk@zrg.com
Fax: +9221 3431 3220

Read More
How to prepare a plan for the contact center disruptions

How to prepare a plan for the contact center disruptions

18 . March . 2020

Among various challenges faced by your contact center, the possible disruptive effects of the coronavirus or other disasters are at the forefront these days. Many contact center communities are reviewing their disaster readiness preparation. A hot topic is WFH or work from home contact center agents.

To assist our clients and partners in this conversation, the ZRG team has put together some guidelines on how to build a business continuity plan for your contact center. We can help you in configuring ZRG’s OneView contact center system into a work from home ready environment that could open so many possibilities for your business.

ZRG is an award winning provider of contact center and advanced CTI system solutions. ZRG has been around since 1994 and is widely recognized as an expert in the specialized field of customer relationship and business communication technologies.

PREPARE TO MAKE A PLAN

To prepare for your contact center to pilot through an unexpected disruption or disaster, the best practice is to create a business continuity plan (BCP). This plan should identify teams to navigate potential disruption, as well as critical infrastructure and vendors for your business. Part of the documentation of the plan should include a time-based checklist. That plan should document how to keep the servers and employees working in the event the server or agent work site becomes unavailable, e.g. having a DR setup for the Server and phone lines and the WFH option of allowing agents to work from home. This details what happens at each stage of an event. There also should be clearly documented steps that occur when the BCP is activated.

BUILD YOUR BCP TEAM

The first step is to build the BCP teams. Each group should have a distribution list and a call tree. Keep in mind, in a continuation event, not everyone may have access to email or voicemail, so a clear communication plan is necessary. For best coverage, it’s best to use more than one media for points of contact for each team member.

With a call tree, instead of one person trying to reach out to entire teams, a tree structure is created in which specific contacts call others, who in turn call their contacts, and so forth. This is a straightforward means of contacting everyone that should work across almost any sized organization; in larger, more complex environments, it may be possible to automate the notification process. One of the jobs of the BCP Committee will be to create definitions for what is considered mission critical. This will vary depending on things like the size of the business or the industry.

THE BCP COMMITTEE

The team is made up of individuals representing key functions. These should be people who have the authority to make decisions that impact their areas of responsibility - preferably managers or their delegates. Each of these individuals will own their functional areas’ specific response to a BCP event. There should be two people designated as the overall decision-makers for the BCP: a primary and an alternate. Additionally, it often makes sense to have two people assigned as document owners who are responsible for maintaining the actual contents of the plan.

THE BCP RESPONSE TEAM

This team is made up of people who are activated in the case of an event. Using the primary/alternate model, key sites would have specific representatives, and key functional owners would be represented. The overall decision maker would be in this group to make on-the-spot decisions as events unfold.

THE BCP CONSULTANTS

Finally, BCP Consultants are those individuals who need to be kept informed of progress; an example would be members of senior leadership who are not on the above teams, IT partners, business leaders, or even vendor representatives. Other members of this group might be people who have specific skills or knowledge that may need to be called upon depending on the type of event, its duration, or other predefined criteria.

CRITICAL SITES

How a critical site is defined depends on what is housed at the site. In a large, distributed company not all sites may be considered critical. For each critical site, there should be a clear response plan. That plan should document how to keep employees working in the event the site becomes unavailable. If the site contains a critical function, the documentation should lay out the business impact of losing that function over time. It also should lay out the process for the workaround or for moving the function to DR server site or to have remote agents login and work from home. ZRG solutions support this WFH agent mode. Several organization are using WFH with great results.

CRITICAL APPLICATIONS

These are applications that, if lost, will have a measurable negative impact on the business. For most enterprise productivity applications, there are alternatives and workarounds. For other applications, however, it would be beneficial to have an off-premise instance of the application that is isolated from the normal business network; this application could either be reinstalled or spun up by a designated vendor. As part of the plan, document the impact over time of losing this application, establishing when it would become necessary to reinstall or utilize an outside source.

CRITICAL VENDORS

Every business has vendor partners that are important. If one of your vendors has an event that impacts availability, it’s important that there’s a documented workaround or alternative. In some cases, there’s an obvious choice. For example, there are a variety of shipping companies that could provide similar services, or there are a number of computer hardware manufacturers that could offer machines built on a common architecture. However, other partners that offer products or services that may not be readily available might be harder to replace.

MAKING SURE THAT BCP IS READY

A key function of the BCP committee is to review and keep the plan up to date. At minimum, there should be a quarterly document review that identifies changes. If the plan is kept current, these quarterly meetings shouldn’t take much time, only a quick evaluation to determine if site contacts have changed or if any of the applications or vendors need to be updated.

Finally, a best practice is to have regular practice in implementing the BCP. This means testing the distribution lists and call trees and documenting the response. It also means that you need to hold regularly scheduled simulations where the BCP Response Team works through a scenario. This should happen at minimum once a year, and it would be better to have it twice yearly. This allows the team to work through the checklist and document areas for improvement.

If done properly, a BCP can be invaluable even in the case of minor incidents and a huge benefit in the unfortunate event the full BCP has to be activated. Being prepared is the key to success or failure.

ZRG IS AVAILABLE TO ASSIST YOU

ZRG is well versed with all aspects of managing contact center sites and agent related matters. For over 25 years, we have helped leading organizations achieve their customer acquisition and retention goals.

We have successfully delivered Enterprise level projects to prestigious organizations in the banking and financial services, telecoms, insurance, courier, pharmaceutical and energy service industries in the national and international market.

We believe that by improving your business communication and customer interactions, you can create an edge for your business. An experienced partner like ZRG can help you in making your communication functions efficient, your workplace more productive and your customers happier. For more details, please contact

Tooba Kiran
Team Marketing

Call: +9221 3431 3222
WhatsApp: +92314 200 8000
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ZRG.INTL/
Web Chat: www.zrg.com
Skype: zrgsales
eMail: zrg-edesk@zrg.com
Fax: +9221 3431 3220

Read More
Super Effective Ways To Inspire Your Team

Super Effective Ways To Inspire Your Team

1 . November . 2019

Teams are the way that most companies get important work done. When you combine the energy, knowledge, and skills of a motivated group of people, then you and your team can accomplish anything you set your minds to.

Read More
Top