Surviving the Snow: A Contact Center Mitigation Plan

Customer Service
Customer Service
To assess the risks of a severe weather situation, begin by analyzing the potential impact that they may have on the contact center's performance.

Over the years, the negative effects of extreme winter conditions have taught us how critical it is to prepare the contact center for severe weather. Snow days, as pretty as they can be, hide risks. So bundle up.a

To assess the risks of a severe weather situation, begin by analyzing the potential impact that they may have on the contact center's performance. Severe snow days may disrupt your service level in several different areas, including call volume, attendance, technology, and facilities. These disruptions inevitably lead to high average hold times, dropped calls, and a general inability to address the customer's needs.

However, by examining the potential areas of impact and developing a mitigation plan, you can prepare your organization for a successful ride through the storm. Here are some of the main points to consider when drawing up your snow day plans:

Communications - Manage customer expectations by placing a recording on the IVR that advises callers of the conditions and warns of possible wait times. Also suggest alternatives, particularly self-service channels. Communicate this plan with the rest of the organization as well -- particularly the social media and website teams, who can help manage customer expectations by posting up-to-date information.

Call Volume Increase - Look into your CTI routing rules. You may want to consider changing the routing rules based on new priorities/queues (e.g. enabling higher/same priority for customer service and sales calls). Assess overflow options; determine whether other contact centers or outsourced partners based outside of the worst affected areas can take on additional activity. Work together with your partners to design a plan that will make the transition easier for you and minimize disruption to customers.

Workforce - Prepare your teams ahead of time, communicating the workforce changes that may be necessary to address the severe weather implications. Changes include longer shifts, hoteling, and overlapping shifts. Consider compensation and incentives to encourage supportive behavior. Establish a shuttle service to nearby hotels and provide hot meals if possible.

Information Systems and Technology - Severe weather may impact your technology's performance, be it internal IT or an outsourced service provider. Make sure that the necessary arrangements are made to support possible downtimes, disaster and recovery, and system overload. Set expectations and agree on a new escalation path.

Facilities - Do you have backup power, local heaters, and a snow removal service in the parking lot? Warm employees provide better service! Also, make sure snow is not piling up and the facility is fully accessible and safe.

On top of the planning and execution of this plan, it's important to designate a Mission Control team to oversee its execution, communicate with the employees each step of the way, and immediately act on any deviation from the plan.

The key success factor of an extreme weather mitigation plan is its ability to provide multiple options, allowing the call center to react in real time as the weather escalates and situations change. When this happens, document your experience and debrief the team when the weather winds down. Learning from these situations will strengthen your team and ensure your preparedness for the next storm.