The Only Way to Do Call Center Disaster Recovery Training

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When disaster strikes at your call center, every second counts—because without access to critical systems and data, your customer service can grind to a halt. 

Of course, not only can this negatively impact your company’s revenue, but it can also ruin the reputation of your customer support lines.

This is exactly why having a detailed disaster recovery plan in place is so important for call centers. Still, that plan can only be effective if your employees have been properly trained on the right protocols and procedures.

There are various methods your call center team can use for testing redundancy, mapping out escalation procedures, creating simulated scenarios, and getting leadership buy-in on your disaster recovery plan. By implementing the industry’s best practices, your call center service can recover faster in the face of a real-life disaster scenario.

Why Drills Are Best For Call Center Disaster Recovery Training

Running disaster drills is crucial because it allows your support agents to prepare for any real-life scenarios that could cause your contact center to fail. A few potential disaster scenarios include:

  • Power outages that shut down your phone and computer systems
  • Core software crashes that disable the systems your agents rely on 
  • Call-bombing campaigns that overwhelm your customer support lines

In all of these situations, your contact center operations could be stopped without any contingencies in place. However, by running relevant drills ahead of time, you can prepare your staff for any catastrophic system failures that might someday occur.

One of the first steps in your preparations should be to map out all of your agents’ dedicated roles and immediate responsibilities for whenever a disaster comes—like using server backup software to protect your contact center data. This will make it easier for each of your agents to work together and resolve any technical issues that come up during a real emergency. 

Some key responsibilities to define include:

  • Who will contact your technology vendor, cloud provider, or internal IT team
  • Who will initiate backup protocols to restore software and databases
  • Who will post statuses and redirects on your website and phone menus
  • Who will draft pre-approved messages to push out on social media

By setting up these routines and procedures ahead of time, your agents can collaborate quickly, delegate responsibilities effectively, and minimize any confusion that may occur during high-pressure incidents like a power outage or software crash.

Set Up Scheduled and Surprise Call Center Disaster Recovery Drills

Once you have your disaster recovery routines and procedures set up, the next step is to start planning recovery drills to test if your support team is ready to execute the plan. 

These scheduled drills are necessary because you want your support agents to have a chance to ask questions and get detailed training before a real-life disaster scenario occurs. Not only will this allow your teams to walk through the procedures in advance, but it will also ensure that everyone on the team understands their individual responsibilities.

That said, you should also consider the frequency at which you plan out and execute your recovery drills—including the ones you run as a surprise. These spontaneous drills mimic the unexpected nature of real disasters and help test whether your response procedures are second nature for your staff.

Generally, it’s considered a best practice to conduct two drills per quarter—one openly scheduled drill and one surprise drill. As your teams demonstrate more proficiency over time, you can reduce the frequency to one scheduled and one surprise drill per six months.

During these drills, be sure to track performance metrics, including:

  • Time to detect the simulated outage
  • Time to launch contingency protocols
  • Time to communicate statuses effectively
  • Time to recover critical systems fully

Analyzing these results will reveal opportunities to refine your recovery plan and ensure your customer support lines can bounce back from any disaster scenario.

Conduct Your Drills Before and After Business Hours

To minimize customer impact, it’s wise to schedule your disaster recovery drills before or after your regular call center hours. This ensures you won’t have to worry about incoming calls while your tests are in progress, giving the scheduled drills the time and focus they require. 

You can also avoid any unwanted interruptions to your customer support lines by coordinating with your backup call routing service so your customers can be redirected as needed. It might even be a good idea to keep a small group of agents available to serve your customers while these drills are happening with the rest of your support staff.

In terms of the content of these drills, they should mirror real-life disasters as closely as possible. For example, you could safely shut off power to parts of your center to simulate an electrical failure. Likewise, you could also have your IT team disable key software to represent a system crash. 

Other impactful surprise scenarios you can recreate include:

  • Network/telecom outages
  • Database corruption 
  • Mass software glitches
  • Cyber intrusions

As you plan out these scenarios, remember that preparing for disaster scenarios is crucial, but not crucial enough to ignore your clients. Whatever you do, you should have contingencies in place to continue assisting real customers without interruption. 

Set up Communication Checklists for Your Disaster Drills

Effective communication is an important part of any drill—including the ones you set up for your contact centers. Therefore, before you conduct your first scheduled disaster drill, your teams should develop preset email and phone call checklists that they can quickly follow to inform key stakeholders in the event of a real system failure. 

Even if the outages are simulated, these drills present an opportunity for your teams to practice prompt and clear status updates. Once you have your checklists ready, make sure your staff is ready to communicate information like disaster impact, active recovery efforts, and estimated time frames of restoration through the appropriate channels.

Your checklists should have email templates and pre-drafted phone scripts that share essential details like:

  • Scope of disruption  
  • Functional areas affected
  • Interim contingencies activated  
  • Root causes, once known
  • Expected timing of future updates

The more your agents rehearse these crisis communications, the easier it will be to identify and resolve any technical issues that may occur during a real disruption to your contact center.

The Power of the Debrief 

Even after you’ve assigned responsibilities and created a communication plan for your teams, there’s still a very important procedure you should be following: a structured debrief.

You can use debriefs to capture fresh feedback on what worked well during your drills and where breakdowns occurred. Afterward, you can identify areas for improvement and have participants brainstorm ways to improve the effectiveness of your recovery drills. 

Once your debrief is complete, you should then analyze any gaps you discovered in your plan’s execution. Ask yourself questions such as the following:

  • Were individual responsibilities unclear? 
  • Did any of your communication channels fail?
  • Were your systems not backed up?
  • Were the tools you used inadequate for a timely restoration?

Once you identify these gaps, you can update your disaster recovery protocols and future call center training based on the insights you and your team gathered. 

When all is said and done, you can be confident that the recovery drills, checklists, and debriefs you’ve put in place will guarantee that your support team is prepared for any disaster so that it can continue to provide top-tier support to your customers as soon as possible.

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