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4 Best Practices for Building CX into your Business Continuity Plan

Follow this guide to ensure your CX program is ready to respond to the unexpected without missing a beat.

From earthquakes, hurricanes, pandemics, and beyond, there will always be looming risks to the normal daily operation of your business. But meeting—if not exceeding—customer expectations consistently isn’t a goal. It’s an expectation, even in times of crisis. From ensuring your product remains functioning to keeping your CX lines of communication open, business continuity plans (BCPs) must maintain a strong focus on the customer experience. 

During the COVID pandemic, research showed that digital sales skyrocketed, support queries increased, and contact centers had to reevaluate how they could communicate with customers. Social distancing protocols meant a huge shift to at-home work to keep up with demand. CX leaders responded by accelerating digital migrations -- but many BPOs were unprepared for this. 

Knowing what we know now in a (hopefully) post-COVID world, brands and outsourcers alike are able to better plan ahead for future unexpected events. By creating a CX-driven BCP, especially with the help of a CX partner, it makes certain that no crisis will get in the middle of your brand delivering for its customers. These best practices will help you make CX an integral part of your BCP.

1. Find the Right CX Partner

Working with a quality BPO that can scale quickly is imperative for CX success -- but is even more critical when planning for the worst. You need a partner who is equipped to support your brand, even in hard times -- it’s likely when you’ll need them most. There are a lot of considerations when it comes to finding your brand’s best-fit BPO, but you’ll want to ensure your partner is prepared for anything, and will work with you on your BCP. When evaluating prospective BPOs, be sure to consider their ability to not only meet your needs under normal circumstances, but what their procedures are during disruptions, outages, and crises. Consider the following when choosing a BPO:

  • Experienced agents in your brand’s industry. A BPO with mature, seasoned agents can help cut down on accountability when remote work is necessary and ensure you continue to meet KPIs and serve the customer efficiently and effectively, regardless of what’s going on. 
  • Geographic diversity. Tapping a CX partner in diverse regions is a good way of expanding to global locations to take advantage of diversification and cost-savings. In the event of disruptions or emergencies in specific regions, a spread out, geographically diverse workforce will prevent operations from shutting down or having a more severe impact. When your BPO operates in many different locations, you can ensure there is less risk when a specific area is targeted by an event.
  • A digitally native workforce. Digital natives are fluent in technology, and can help serve your customers with the omnichannel experience critical to brand success. But in the case of a disruption, it is likely that digitally native agents will have an easier time shifting to remote work due to their comfort level with the technology.
  • Digital expertise and a cutting-edge tech stack. Staying on top of the most innovative technologies and solutions can feel like a full time job in itself, and can be costly to implement in-house. A BPO who invests in these areas means you get all the benefit, without the investment.
  • Agility and flexibility. While this is important year-round, it is especially important when you consider planning for the unknown, so you can have peace of mind your BPO can handle shifting gears when needed sou can quickly pivot to address disruptions or meet customers expectations.

2. Ensure Your Contact Center Can Withstand Anything, From Anywhere

The pandemic has shown that top-notch CX can happen from anywhere in the world. In fact, a recent Forbes survey revealed that 70% of contact center managers were happy with their remote agents’ productivity.

Is Your Contact Center Prepared With An At-Home Plan?

Research from Gartner shows that it is projected that 71% of contact center services will be provided remotely moving forward. It is no longer a ‘nice to have,’ but a key element to building resiliency into your business. 

Is your outsourcer prepared to shift delivery to an at-home model? Be sure to have a conversation with your CX partner about their WFH options, including hybrid models where some agents are in-center and others are at-home, or a rotating schedule for agents to come in or stay home. Be sure to discuss the following with your CX outsourcer:

  • What is your current at-home delivery model? Do you utilize a hybrid model?
  • How long will it take to shift from in-center to at-home work in the event of a disruption or crisis?
  • Do you have training programs in place to support at-home work? Do you prepare all agents with the knowledge needed on how to WFH in case a quick shift is needed?
  • Do you have the tools necessary to support an increasingly remote workforce, including enough devices?
  • Do you use monitoring and/or coaching tools to keep track of at-home agents’ work?
  • How do you ensure security of company information and sensitive data when agents are working at home?

Ensuring your agents can pivot to at-home work without missing a beat is critical to keep CX consistent. Be sure to consider the following to support remote agents:

  • Cloud-based services
  • Whisper coaching so managers can provide feedback to agents
  • Assurance your agents have reliable Internet connectivity and hardware needed
  • Team monitoring tools
  • A messaging system, like Slack or Microsoft Teams
  • Training simulators

3. Be Ready To Scale Up or Down, and Have Alternatives In Place

Your chosen CX partner needs to be agile in the way they scale up or down. Unprecedented times are not just related to disasters where you may need more agents on deck at a moment’s notice -- seasonal spikes, unexpected rises and falls in consumer behavior, and hypergrowth can contribute to having periods where you need to quickly scale up -- or scale down -- the amount of CX support is needed. 

  • Use real-time and historical data to try to anticipate shifts in activity. You can’t always predict what’s going to happen. But if you can anticipate it ahead of time, customers are even less likely to notice any disruption to service. Seasonal spikes and weather-related service disruptions, particularly at certain times of the year can sometimes be predicted. Even before COVID, viral outbreaks were typically more common in the winter, which meant an increase in absenteeism. 
  • Utilize social media. Reviews and social media engagement have also gone up. Anticipating the possibility of review and the need to respond to them—particularly negative ones—can ensure customers know your brand is always listening, regardless of which channel they choose to engage with you using. Social reputation management tools curate reviews from numerous sites so it’s easier to track and respond to the constant stream of unsolicited, unstructured feedback.
  • Leverage self-service and automation. Having additional options in place for when you’re strapped for resources, or to free up agents time, is also critical in creating a more seamless CX delivery into your planning. Create self-service solutions and self-help guides and utilize automation and technology, such as Chatbots, for lower-level queries to free up agents’ time for more complex issues. Having as many self-service support options as possible can also be critical to ensure there are no gaps in support if your contact center is experiencing an outage and cannot be reached.

Overall, the ability to rapidly scale and be prepared with other solutions when needed is invaluable when it comes to preparing your business for anything.

 

4. Prioritize Enhanced Security and Safety Measures

Trust is essential when it comes to keeping your customers loyal. To do that, you’ll need to make sure that certain security measures are in place to keep their often sensitive and personal data safe. However, a shift to at-home work means you’ll need to enhance security in a way that caters to a remote workforce. You can achieve this by:

  • Installing special access codes
  • Requiring two-step authentication on any software with sensitive customer information
  • Requiring regular password updates to help keep data secure.

Be sure to work with your BPO to put a plan in place to make sure remote work is safe, especially if the shift needs to happen quickly. Additionally, you’ll want to be sure your outsourcer is prepared to keep your data secure under any circumstances. Be sure to ask your BPO the following questions concerning data protection:

  • Are you willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)?
  • What are your protocols for handling sensitive and personal data? How do you ensure compliance with local data privacy regulations?
  • What are your data protection policies and safeguards?
  • Have you ever experienced a data breach? If so, what did you do? If not, are you prepared in the event of a breach?
  • How is customer data secured, and can it be migrated to a safe location in the event of a disruption, disaster, or attack?
  • Do you have different plans in place for different types of events?
  • How do you communicate with clients and customers during outages or disruptions?

When discussing security, you’ll also want to think about it beyond your data. You’ll want to ensure the contact center and the agents working there are also safe during certain types of disruptions. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic meant contact centers needed to create new protocols to keep agents safe from the virus, such as social distancing, mask mandates, and vaccination and/or COVID testing requirements. While these are still in play, other considerations must be made for other crises. Be sure to discuss these events in planning with your BPO:

  • How secure is your contact center? What security measures are in place?
  • Are on-site team members trained for specific events, such as weather-related emergencies, fire safety protocols, or if there is an active threat in the building?
  • Does your outsourcer have effective security and safety protocols in place for different types of events/disruptions?

Conclusion

Sometimes, plans feel like they go up in smoke when something out of our control happens (like a global pandemic). But your dedication to CX can’t slip when the unexpected occurs. Making CX an integral and intelligent part of your business continuity plan will ensure protection during your weakest moments. Monitoring data, anticipating needs, rectifying agent issues quickly, having an agile workforce, and finding the right BPO to support you as you support customers are all important steps to ensuring your brand’s CX doesn’t miss a beat, even during your toughest moments.


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