How the Cloud Can Help Safeguard Your Lifeline with the Customer

By Neil Titcomb

Contact centers provide an essential lifeline between organizations and customers. A well-designed and sensibly implemented business continuity protection strategy for the contact center can minimize the high costs of downtime and, more importantly, minimize the loss of revenue that can cause serious harm. But is it too expensive to implement? The cloud offers the answer. Cloud architecture and deployment options provide a near-seamless business continuity strategy that can significantly minimize the impact.

So what are the key issues associated with business continuity? And how can the cloud address these issues?

Business Continuity or Disaster Recovery? Business continuity is not the same as disaster recovery. While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, business continuity is concerned with mitigating risk before a disaster strikes, while disaster recovery refers to plans to be acted upon in the event of a disaster.

Business continuity describes the necessary planning and processes to reduce risk and ensure that critical business functions will continue to operate in the event of a disaster; this should be implemented well in advance. Natural disasters have a huge impact on businesses today. For example, in the United States, Hurricane Sandy caused approximately $50 billion in economic losses; flooding across Europe caused proportionately similar losses.

Business Continuity and the Contact Center: Today’s contact centers are complex environments with multiple systems and technologies, many of which are critical to their operation and customer communications. It is, therefore, easy to see why it is imperative that contact centers remain up and running in the event of a disaster. But it is also important to remember that the increase in system complexity, tighter service level agreements (SLAs) with customers and partner organizations, and a variety of industry regulations all contribute to the need for a strong business continuity strategy.

Determining the Financial Impact of an Outage: How do you calculate the effect of an outage on your business? First, consider agent productivity. To determine the impact on your own agent productivity, you will need to compute or determine the loaded cost of an agent and the number of agents in the contact center. Next, calculate the agent per-hour cost. By factoring in the outage time per year, you can then determine your own costs of lost agent productivity from an unplanned outage.

Not only will you suffer agent-related costs, but the financial hit of lost revenues plus the damage to competitive advantage can be huge. A definitive result can be calculated by looking at metrics such as the number of interactions handled in the contact center, lost calls or interactions, and abandon rates.

Depending on lifetime customer value, the consequential total cost of outages or disruptions can run well into the millions on a yearly basis.

Hidden Costs: Determining the appropriate level of protection comes down to balancing and comparing the costs of the solution compared to the cost of lost business from a disruption. Not only do you have direct costs, there are also the hidden costs of doing nothing: loss of competitive advantage and additional infrastructure costs.

Decision Time: In the end, the decision for how much business continuity you will need comes down to how competitive your business environment is, how strategically important it is to provide a consistently superior customer experience, and how willing the organization is to invest in and ensure that you have the ability to deliver service in the face of unplanned disruptions.

How the Cloud Can Help: Cloud providers offer a wide variety of capabilities, including physical facilities and network services, secure data centers with geographic separation to overcome localized disasters, and the ability to rapidly restore service, in addition to full-time vigilance.

These are all services that are integral to many cloud solutions. A suitable cloud provider offers continuous coverage to ensure that any service issue is attended to and resolved rapidly, maximizing availability for customer interactions.

With its numerous backup carriers, storing your data in the cloud means that the risk of losing data during a blackout is almost eliminated. Some cloud providers offer options for redundant network services from their data centers to your locations across multiple carrier links. This ensures continuity of critical services and redundancy to the serving data centers and further protects key data and voice circuits from single points of failure.

As a result, a cloud solution is effective for maintaining a viable workforce during outages and natural disasters. Additionally, using the cloud means that contact center employees now have the added flexibility to work from home, which introduces a wide range of business advantages such as reduced building costs, decreased employee turnover, and improved productivity.

Keep It Top of Mind: As long as man-made and natural disasters affect organizations, business continuity will be a hot topic, and having a business continuity strategy should be top of mind for IT executives, particularly for contact centers that provide an essential lifeline to the customer.

In creating a business continuity strategy, companies need to understand the short- and long-term risk and costs involved in a disaster and then balance these costs against the costs and benefits of a business continuity strategy. This is where the cloud offers a real advantage.

A cloud-based contact center solution can simplify and greatly enhance business continuity plans. A business can take advantage of the resilience and high availability that cloud service providers must provide as part of their own infrastructure simply to be able to deliver software as a service (SaaS). Cloud-based contact center technology provides easy access, proven security, compliance, and scalability. Constantly monitored by seasoned IT professionals, interactions are managed in the cloud every day, not just as an option for disaster situations.

This experience provides real value for businesses and customers, and it provides a peace of mind should an unfortunate or unexpected incident occur.

Neil Titcomb is the UK&I sales director for cloud at Genesys.

[From the Dec 2014/Jan 2015 issue of AnswerStat magazine]