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BCP: one of the most dreaded three letter acronyms for contact centre and IT executives around the world. BCP stands for business continuity plan and is a document which proactively addresses conceivable disruptions to a business, from minor, such as a call centre system outage, to major disasters such as a fire, pandemic or hurricane. This is in contrast to the DR or disaster recovery plan, which is a plan typically formulated reactively, only after an unforeseen incident occurs.

Unless you’re a doomsdayer, it’s not a pleasant task to anticipate all the things that could go wrong in the lifeline of a business, but it’s a fact of life that things do go wrong all the time, and it’s better to be prepared. Plan for the unplanned, and you could save your company massive damage to its brand and share price, revenues and customers.  A simple calculation such as “1000 calls a day at 40% conversion rate x $1000 per sale = $400,000 in lost revenues” should be enough to spark a CFO’s attention and make the case for investment in allocating or hiring resources to design a BCP!

One of the nice aspects of writing a BCP is that it brings together stakeholders from nearly every division of a company – from HR and IT, to Operations, Property, PR and the Executive Office. So this can be quite an exercise in team building, even if it does unfold in a “war room” setting!  Indeed essential to any BCP is the (primary, secondary and escalation) contact list of employees co-opted to be responsible for managing an incident, alongside their regular duties. In addition, of course, contact details for any third party consultants or vendors should be included, for example telephony providers, electrical contractors, facility management and software maintenance companies.  It’s important to be aware of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with each vendor so you can factor in their promised response times as well.  But this is just the easy part…

The BCP should detail “who”, “when”, “how long” and “how bad” for each conceivable incident (“what”).  In a contact centre, for example, every item of technology must be assessed for incident risk: what if the telco network, CRM application or the software used to manage phone, email and web chat with customers, goes down?  More and more companies are looking to reduce this risk by leveraging the benefits of the cloud, and the redundancy it offers.  Nevertheless, virtually every contact centre experiences outages of this nature and given the likelihood of a technology outage is high over the course of a year, it should be an obvious priority to address in any BCP.

A fire starting in the staff kitchen is just one scenario that could involve evacuation of a facility, leading to the question of how to maintain service continuity by redeploying employees to another physical location. This is sometimes addressed by maintaining a standby or hot site, where at least a portion of customer service staff can work in a makeshift environment.  Larger companies tend to have multisite contact centres, in physically disparate locations, so sometimes it’s possible to redirect customer contact activity to the non-affected location (although this is not always as simple as it sounds due to lack of workforce capacity or required training in the second location). The trend towards flexible working arrangements, with employees having the option to work from home, has the added benefit of providing ready-to-go infrastructure should the main contact centre site be inaccessible.

In this day and age, a BCP which does not leverage social media is hardly best practice. Facebook Twitter and LinkedIn should all be considered as channels to communicate with customers and employees alike, and update them on progress of any incident. It may also be helpful to update the IVR message front-ending your call centre to similarly provide advice and direct people to the website to self-manage routine enquiries or transactions.

Testing your BCP once or twice a year is best practice.  

Do you need help writing or reviewing your BCP?

The above points merely scratch the surface of what needs to be considered in a comprehensive Business Contunuity Management Plan. If you’d like to connect with a consultant specialising in BCP and disaster recovery, please contact us; alternatively, lodge your request through our quick questionnaire, and we’ll connect you with a shortlist of consultants who can help you start business continuity planning for the unplanned, or audit your existing BCP.

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