3 Strategies to Maintain Call Center Readiness in Extreme Weather


January 24, 2016

We often find ourselves at the mercy of the weather, especially this time of year in Chicago. Subzero temperatures, heavy snows, and high winds can quickly shut down major highways, prevent people from leaving their homes, or cut power to buildings entirely.

In these scenarios, some businesses will simply cut their losses and close for the day, but not every industry can take off when the weather poses a challenge. Those that remain open must find a way to maintain levels of customer service when contact/call center agents may be unable to get to the office. How can contact centers retain call center readiness?

When the unexpected strikes, Cisco Unified Contact Center Express (UCCX), Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise (UCCE), and Interactive Intelligence Customer Interaction Center all have key features to overcome these hardships.


More than Just Snow, It’s About Agent Readiness

The first thought every Chicago call center will jump to when discussing these scenarios involves snow preventing agents from reaching the office. Granted, Chicago is no stranger to heavy snowstorms, but the strategies discussed here are applicable to a wide range of situations that can occur all year round. Call center readiness applies to more than just winter. 

It’s about more than snow. It’s about agent readiness, and many factors can impact an agent’s readiness to accept calls.

  • A water main can break and flood highways and roads
  • Personal reasons preventing an employee from leaving home
  • Protests or demonstrations near and around the office
  • Extreme heat
  • Tornado watch


Key Strategies for Call Center Readiness in Extreme Weather


Strategy 1: What if your agents cannot get to the contact/call center?


Using UCCX, UCCE, or CIC agents can still utilize the full functionality of the contact/call center platform as a remote agent. This means that in the event of a storm, water main break, or other impediment, all an agent has to do is log onto a computer.

Whether a company laptop or personal computer, the agent can access their contact center platform and route their calls to a phone. They can even route calls to a home land line if necessary.

Along with the full suite of UCCX, UCCE, and CIC features, all calls taken by this remote agent can still be recorded and tracked for reporting and quality assurance purposes.

So long as there is an internet connection available, the only difference between an agent in the call center and an agent working from home is the location.


Strategy 2: What do you do if the entire building has lost power?


Sometimes, disasters like these are not as simple as a storm. Imagine if during the middle of the shift, the office building completely loses power. This can happen for a number of reasons, including construction projects outside cutting a main power line. Suddenly without warning, there is no power. There’s forty or more contact center agents sitting in the dark and unable to help the customer. Every minute that goes by costs the company money.

To account for this scenario, we encourage deployments of UCCE, UCCX, or CIC to have redundancy in a colocated data center or hybrid cloud solution. Should the power go down at the main office or the server break down for other reasons, there is an array of equipment in another location ready to support the UCCX or UCCE application.

With support still available, restoring agent readiness is just a matter of sending the agents home to work remotely so long as it is safe to do so. If there is inclement weather making travel dangerous, simply contact the agents staffed for the next shift to log on from home and cover the interim.


Strategy 3: How do you staff your call center for a storm?


Winter storms rarely sneak up on us. Weather forecasts are always available and often reliable. In most situations, a Chicago call center will have a full day or more to prepare for the storm.

Here is where staffing considerations come into play. The storm is sure to have an impact on call volume, and depending on your industry, it may drastically increase or decrease the number of calls your contact/call center can expect. Furthermore, the contact center may be dealing with a combination of in-office and remote agents. Coordinating breaks and total coverage without a clear strategy can be a serious challenge.

Both UCCX, UCCE, CIC provide the reporting needed to intelligently staff the contact/call center in this precise situation. Cisco Unified Workforce Optimization allows a contact center manager to devise schedules and coordinate breaks while referencing call volume metrics and key performance indicators. The contact center manager can simply look to see the levels of traffic received last time there was a similar storm and plan accordingly.

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For Further Reading:

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