Telus International on Going to BPOs for Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery
November 02, 2010
Contact centers have become the hubs of organizations’ service, support and business. As such, they are vulnerable to disasters in two key ways: when they are threatened and hit by them or are overwhelmed with calls and contacts by such events elsewhere.
The challenge becomes how best both service-and-cost wise to provide contact services. Firms need to be there for their customers and users but they have limited resources available to business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR). While inbound and outbound IVR and web-based solutions can and do help, there are no real substitutes for the assuring, if expensive, human voices in crises.
Paul Egger is vice president, global operations for Telus International. TMCnet recently interviewed him about the option of going to BPO firms like his for contact center BC/DR.
But what if something goes wrong and the contact center goes down? If you rely on a single BPO provider, or even several centers in the same part of the world, you can entirely lose your ability to communicate with customers when phone lines go down, roads get cut off, power goes down, or your building is damaged.Many firms find that partnering with a specialized BPO contact center firm is the most cost- effective way to ensure “always on” customer service in the face of a local disaster. BPO contact center firms have the expertise, economies of scale, geographic diversity and redundant call center technology to keep business going. And good BPO contact center providers will have extremely robust business BC/DR plans in place. They often cover events and scenarios ranging from natural disasters, to infrastructure disasters, to people-initiated disasters (intentional or not) that are not always considered or tested by many organizations.There are not a lot of industry stats on disaster recovery perhaps because business interruptions are rarely reported and if they are, they are highly underestimated. When you are a provider of BPO contact center services, it’s hard to hide when things go wrong. Clients are demanding and expect their programs to have 100 percent uptime.
To meet such demand, TELUS (News - Alert) International, for example, has the only OC12 network into the Philippines, with two high bandwidth cable connections including E300 failover redundant circuits; our infrastructure is 100 percent redundant and self healing. In addition, BPO providers have a wealth of information covering how to staff for unusual situations, how to test real world scenarios (and not just equipment failures), how to re-route call traffic to other locations, and how to implement regularly-tested business continuity plans as quickly as possible.
TELUS International's parent company, TELUS has had a lot of success with its at-home agents program in Canada reaching over 1,000 at-home agents in 2009. This program works because the agents have spent a minimum amount of time working in a call center before working from home. These agents also demonstrate the right behavior, attitude and skill sets for working from home which can be important for executing a BC/DR plan.Agents working in BPO contact centers face another set of issues that include employee willingness or ability to get to work. For example, in 2009 when Typhoon Ketsana hammered Manila with more than 18 inches of rain, the most rainfall in the Philippines in a single day since 1965, the government declared a state of emergency. For TELUS International, getting people to wade through flood waters to get to work was the issue. While we had a fully capable set of facilities that were completely operational, the local community was not as lucky. Thousands of our team members were suddenly without homes, cars, and food, but they were still ready and willing to come to work. The question we had was, where were they and how do we get in touch with them to help them return to work as quickly as possible? Forty percent of cell service in Metro Manila was out of service, under water, in the first major flood of its type in 45 years.TELUS International launched a comprehensive business continuity plan aimed at connecting with agents - first to see if they were safe and then to make sure they could get to work as soon as possible. This included a range of innovative programs such as:
Understandably, it is difficult to ensure quality from every carrier in the world, especially when trying to measure when a customer makes a call to a center from a cell phone and the call drops, a common occurrence. When working with your BPO contact center provider it is important to understand what the uptime levels are, what they are measuring, and what they include e.g. systems, services, HVAC, desktops and phones.It is also important to note that there are scenarios that may impact uptime guarantees. This could include when a client has specific technology tied to a specific endpoint, when changes are made on the client side and they need to inform the BPO provider, and for example, if a firewall is inadvertently closed facing the BPO points of presence. As a best practice, clients and BPO providers should remain open and transparent about potential scenarios that could impact contractual uptime guarantees and document these in advance to ensure an always on positive end customer experience.
Our parent company, TELUS, is one of Canada's biggest telecommunications companies. It is considered a major BC model for corporate environments in Canada and chairs the Canada wide BCP [business continuity planning] council. All domestic BCP standards are applied to TELUS International and its nearshore and offshore operations. We test and flex across geographic boundaries and will continue to refine things as we grow. A few years ago, we were 1,200 team members, now we are 12,000. As you grow, it does get more challenging and testing is much more intense, but a good BC/DR program will take that into account.
Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Jaclyn Allard
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