Avoiding the Business Killer: Downtime
Just the word “downtime” makes you cringe, doesn’t it? Management and IT in a mad dash to get back up and running and troubleshoot issues. Agents frustrated that they have to wait on their computers to do their job and that they have to take the heat from customers while they wait. Customers frustrated that they have to wait…period.
Consider this statement from RetailCustomerExperience.com, “on average, each minute of POS downtime costs a retailer $4,700.” Their overview also comments on the fact that nearly 50% of customers will avoid a brand in the future if they had to wait more than five minutes due to downtime. Whether it is POS, phone systems, Internet, network or other system outage, it is something that no matter what you’ve done to avoid it, something lurks in the background making you wonder when (not if) it will happen to you.
So what have you done to avoid it? Here’s a “top five” checklist you can use to gain peace of mind:
1. Accept What You Cannot Avoid
Let’s get this item checked off first. There are circumstances you just won’t be able to avoid. Mother Nature is in control, not you. Natural disasters, unnatural disasters or even the challenges with nearby construction are simply out of range for you to avoid. Develop a disaster recovery plan, a backup plan and a backup to your backup plan, and then get back to focusing on the rest of this list.
2. Vendor Management
Whether you are a “consolidate vendors for more control” organization or a “diversify vendors to avoid reliance” organization, it is important to have a consistent method of keeping up with system requirements, changes, security and overall management of these relationships. Vendors should be on the same level with your uptime requirements. What are their quality assurance measures? How often do they upgrade systems or services? How are you involved with or notified of changes that will impact your systems? Service level agreements (SLAs) are a requirement of doing business and should not collect dust as contact center requirements are rapidly and constantly changing.
3. Volume Management
Often times, every box has been checked with vendor SLAs, and then you hit an unexpected peak in call volume and your system locks or crashes. It is critical to develop plans for the peaks and valleys of call volume and maintain communications between marketing, IT, operations, and vendor systems so that everyone is prepared well in advance. Map out the various cycles of call volume, identify what causes each cycle, staff appropriately, automate scheduling, forecast changes in operational processes, and deploy cloud-based, scalable systems that have the capability to ebb and flow with volume changes.
Are you set up with geo-redundant hosting? If one server fails, can its function be taken over by a server in another location to guarantee uptime? Does your provider maintain multiple geographically diverse data centers with N+1 architecture to ensure redundancy within and between centers? These and other business continuity features are imperative to meet the most demanding uptime requirements.
When downtime occurs, are your agents sitting and waiting for instruction or are they equipped with “things to do during downtime” activities? Engaged employees lead to engaged customers, so make the most of a bad situation and leverage downtime to focus on employee engagement. Involve them in problem solving and brainstorming sessions based on real-time business issues. Gain feedback on process improvements and customer service trends. Get in some extra best practices and compliance training. If you run out of ideas on ways to fill downtime, CustomerServiceGroup.com published a newsletter on the topic.
There are no 100 percent guarantees when it comes to avoiding downtime. However, if you can check off most of the above checklist items, you may reach 99.999%. Are there other best practices you have deployed to avoid downtime? We’d love to hear your comments!
About the Author: Alexandra Warner is the VP of Marketing at Platform28, a robust Communications-as-a-Service provider for the enterprise. Since 2001, Platform28 has been helping government agencies, enterprise and US Tier 1 carriers streamline their communications, drive business efficiency, and deliver an excellent customer experience.