You want your call center to be prepared to tackle any challenge and come out safely on the other side. While many may brush over their business continuity plans and adopt a so-called “agile” approach to potential disasters, having a plan in place will make all the difference when facing an unforeseen event.

Building your continuity plan isn’t child’s play. Typically, it will take up to two months to have everything in place. Still, the estimated time of completion depends on a variety of factors, including your business size and location.

How to Create a Business Continuity Plan for Your Call Center

Every business is different. So is every business continuity plan. If you run a call center, the following steps will help guide you to create an actionable plan.

Step 1: Understand the Risks You Need to Prepare For

Every business has its own set of risks. For some, the risks are mostly industry-related. For others, they can be related to external factors. If you run a call center, some of the risks you could face include:

  • Natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes, or earthquakes
  • Power outages
  • Internet connectivity issues
  • Cyber threats and security breaches
  • Health emergencies, such as pandemics
  • Social and political turmoil
  • Financial instability

What to do: Bring all department leaders together and consider any potential issue that might affect the well-being of your business. Once you’ve identified every important problem, think of the functions and processes you need to keep the business operational.

Step 2: Build Response and Recovery Strategies

Your response and recovery strategies should be detailed and thorough. For every potential risk you’ve identified, write clear steps you and your entire team need to follow in an emergency, such as software solutions, a boost to team effort, and automated processes. Use whatever you can to minimize the damage caused by disruptive events.

There are three types of recovery and response strategies to consider:

  • Emergency responses: including evacuation, team safety, and so on
  • Alternative operating procedures: such as alternative communication channels, software, backup locations, and systems
  • Resource management: which requires that you make sure you have the personnel to maintain critical operations, like answering urgent calls and diverting others to a voice-assisted system temporarily

What to do: Take notes and add as much detail as possible before you discuss everything with team managers and stakeholders. Make sure your strategies are great not just on paper, but also feasible in real life. This is going to form the foundation of your written action plan, which comes in Step 4.

Step 3: Put Together an Emergency Response Team

No matter what happens, you need to know that you have good people around you to lean on. Your call center’s emergency response team should be well-trained, experienced, and readily available to jump into action.

Identify the people you can trust in your organization to lead the emergency response team. Ensure they understand their roles and responsibilities thoroughly and have access to all necessary resources and contact information.

What to do: You should consider conducting regular drills or simulations for your response team to practice so they are always prepared to meet the demands of a challenging or potentially disruptive situation.

Step 4: Create an Action Plan

To weather the storm, you need more than just a list of solutions and some volunteers. You need a step-by-step action plan that you, your department leaders, and your team members can all follow. Write a plan for your identified risks and solutions and make sure every step is thorough, clear, and easy to understand. 

At the bare minimum, your plan should include the following:

  • Goals
  • Scope
  • Key roles and responsibilities
  • Activation and deactivation
  • Processes and procedures
  • Training, testing, and adjustments 

What to do: Assign roles and responsibilities to specific team members, and make sure everyone is aware of their tasks. You may also want to set up a system for regular check-ins to monitor progress and make any necessary adjustments.

Step 5: Test and Adjust Your Plan

As you’re busy making sure your plan is able to stand up to a crisis situation, you must also test it. This will help you fine-tune all the details and be as prepared as possible when a business interruption occurs.

When assessing and adjusting your plan after you’re done testing, ask yourself the right questions:

  • Was the simulation realistic enough and did everyone understand the threat?
  • What are some of the changes you can implement in your plan now?
  • Are your employee’s safety and interests 100% protected?
  • What can you do to improve stakeholder communications and management?
  • How can you ensure that business interruptions don’t affect the way that customers perceive your service? 

What to do: There are three main types of testing you can do when it comes to business continuity plans:

  • Tabletop simulations: exercises which help you and your team see how you’d react in a given situation
  • Functional testing: which helps you test very specific elements of your plan, such as your backup location
  • Full-scale drills: drills that simulate an actual emergency, which can help you identify any weaknesses in your plan

Step 6: Build a Backup System

For a call center, a backup system is made out of different components. You should always test and double-test to make sure your backup systems are ready to pick up in the shortest possible time. Some common backup systems are:

  • A backup workspace: either remote work or a backup office where your team can go and continue taking customer calls
  • Communications systems: systems such as VoIP and call forwarding which ensure customers can reach you at any time
  • Data backups and cloud storage systems: which start up in case of power outages or internet connectivity issues

What to do: Consider all possible scenarios that could impact your ability to operate from your primary location. From there, put redundant systems in place for all critical functions so that your backup systems mirror your primary ones. 

Step 7:  Create a Communication Plan

Whatever type of business interruption you may face, a communication plan is absolutely crucial. Your team, stakeholders, and customers deserve to know what is happening and when you will be able to work again. You’ll also want to ensure that all channels of communication are up-to-date and accessible from anywhere.

What to do: Make a list of everyone who needs to be contacted in case of an emergency. Record a voicemail message, draft email templates, and create social media posts that can be used to communicate the situation quickly and efficiently.

Step 8: Train Your Employees

A business continuity plan doesn’t begin and end on paper. It eventually needs to work in real life. If you want to implement your plan properly, you need to make sure everyone in the company is on board with it and knows what to do in case of an emergency.

What to do: Present your assessment and plan to the team, and then make sure everyone  participates in training. Train every employee to know how to act on the plan, whether that’s knowing what to do from a safety perspective or how to respond to call scripts.

Don’t Set It and Forget It: Ongoing Future-Proofing Activities

Your business continuity plan isn’t static. It needs to grow and evolve with your company. It’s essential to review, update, and test your plan regularly to ensure it stays relevant.

Review your business continuity plan at least once a year and make sure your backups are still valid options, that you’ve considered recent events, and that your volunteer team is still available.

Furthermore, remember that regular training drills, reviews, surveys, and exams can all help you, your team, and your business stay secure.

Is Leveraging AI a Smart BCP Strategy? We Think So

To say that AI has made waves is a huge understatement. Call centers are no exception.

Using Artificial Intelligence can help you and your team become more efficient, provide better service, improve customer satisfaction, and retain more customers.

Some of the best ways to use AI to create a Business Continuity plan are:

  • Predictive analytics: analyzing large amounts of data to identify business risks
  • Chatbots: automating customer service and communication during a crisis
  • Intelligent routing: optimizing call center operations and improving call handling times
  • Speech analytics: monitoring calls in real-time and identifying any issues or areas for improvement
  • Script writing: writing quick scripts for unforeseen situations

At the end of the day, a business continuity plan helps you ensure call center quality no matter what external factors may disrupt your operations. This is important for both workforce management and customer satisfaction.

Good call center software and AI can definitely help. But ultimately, you know your business better than anyone. Use your expertise to develop a solid strategy whenever an unexpected issue arises. 

A Practical (and Free) Business Continuity Checklist

If you’re ready to build your call center business continuity plan, here’s a quick checklist you can use to ensure you don’t forget any key pieces:

  1. Bring your department leaders together and identify every type of potential risk you need to prepare for.
  2. For every potential issue you’ve identified, list out response and recovery strategies. Consider all aspects of the business that may be affected, from your telephone systems to evacuation procedures. Think of this as your initial brainstorming session for when you create the actual plan.
  3. Create an emergency response team with clear roles and responsibilities defined.
  4. Create an action plan that includes goals, key roles and responsibilities, processes and procedures, and training plans.
  5. Test and adjust your plan through simulations of the actual event.
  6. Build backup systems, including a backup office, backup phone systems, and cloud storage systems.
  7. Create a communication plan so that all key players, from employees to stakeholders to customers, know what’s going on in the event of an emergency
  8. Train your employees so everyone knows what to do when an emergency happens.