Planning for Unplanned Disruptions

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Any office is susceptible to an outbreak of swine flu due to the shared equipment, close quarters, and friendly contact. Fortunately, most offices can tell employees to work from home, stay home sick, or can often close down for a day or two until the illness passes. Contact centers often don't have that luxury, but they should be developing a plan in case H1N1 hits their employees.

Any office is susceptible to an outbreak of swine flu due to the shared equipment, close quarters, and friendly contact. Fortunately, most offices can tell employees to work from home, stay home sick, or can often close down for a day or two until the illness passes. Contact centers often don't have that luxury, but they should be developing a plan in case H1N1 hits their employees.Recently a call center in Oklahoma City nearly shut down when a supervisor thought she had swine flu. Luckily it turned out she wasn't diagnosed with the illness, but it caused a stir and should be a reminder to every contact center manager to have a contingency plan in place.

We've discussed this before in other cases like natural disasters, but H1N1 poses a different threat because it's crossing the entire country (and world) at once. Unlike an earthquake or flood, where calls can be routed to another center, multiple offices may have to close (or at least be severely understaffed). Ensuring employees' health is the first priority, but second on that list is achieving the same customer experience level as when the centers are fully staffed.

Just today the New York Times reported that the US had only received 23.2 million doses of swine flu vaccine (9 million in the last week) out of the 120 million it expected to have on hand at the end of October. For a number of reasons, its clear there won't be enough vaccines to keep the virus from causing major disruptions.

As contact center managers, make sure your employees stay home if they're feeling any flu-like symptoms so that they don't spread the illness to others. Encourage vaccination in line with Federal recommendations. And most importantly, expect to make changes to processes, schedules, and training to limit the impact of understaffing.

Has your company discussed how swine flu might impact your customer service personnel? Do you have a contingency plan in place?

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION