With falling commodity prices and a declining currency, South Africa’s economy is under greater strain than ever before.
Cost-cutting is an inevitable consequence, but defensive measures must not compromise their long-term sustainability. In particular, says Innes le Roux, Manager: Standby Services at ContinuitySA, contact centres must not be left vulnerable to disaster.
“Contact centres are a company’s main link to the outside world, particularly to customers and partners,” he says. “In the event of a disaster, plans have to be in place for the contact centre. Skimping on disaster recovery provisions for the contact centre might make short-term sense, but could put the company’s survival at risk.”
A complicating factor is that contact centres are by their very nature complex organisms, relying on sophisticated software, high levels of connectivity and state-of-the-art facilities for agents.
While many employees fulfilling back-office functions can work from home provided they can access corporate systems, contact centre agents cannot do so. They need to access corporate data in real time while using sophisticated contact centre software. In other words, IT disaster recovery is not enough – the whole contact centre environment has to be replicated at the recovery site, including adequate seating for agents.
“Bear in mind, a disaster will inevitably cause a spike in calls, placing additional pressure on the contact centre,” Le Roux says. “With that in mind, many companies are turning to specialists like ContinuitySA to provide a comprehensive disaster recovery plan for their contact centres. It’s not just a question of experience and know-how—we can also offer the cost benefits of economies of scale as well.”
ContinuitySA has state-of-the-art facilities and recently upgraded the telephony infrastructure at its Randburg operation. The upgrade involved switching to the latest version of Avaya software and a move onto a virtual telephony infrastructure. In addition, the archiving and recording capabilities were improved.
“It would be extremely rare for a company to have an up-to-date system like this available for their disaster recovery site, but it has real advantages: you know it will work when you need it, and it will have the features your agents are used to, and that may have become mission critical,” Le Roux points out.
For companies that prefer to handle things themselves, he adds that it is vital to research the test and technical information of the technology alternatives.
“Relying on the ‘big brands’ can be a costly way to get the same functionality that is now offered by many of the newer brands,” he argues. “The newer brands typically offer better guarantees and service levels, and frequently have better training, than the incumbents—they might just be the perfect partners for your own disaster recovery facilities. Whatever route you take, the key point is that your contact centre is your business. Make sure it is adequately provided for in your business continuity plans, whatever the cost pressures.”