Introduction

The current COVID19 situation has shone a light on many an organisation’s inability to fulfil its customer contact centre obligations due to a lack of resilience, accessibility and capability to adequately operate under the unprecedented circumstances.

Almost every customer-facing organisation has some form of contact centre offering. In fact, a recent study indicated there are approximately 6,000 contact centres housing 700,000 agents in the UK alone. 

Business Criticality

The nature of an organisation’s line of business typically defines the criticality of its contact centre operation. For example, an organisation that provides emergency services such as the Police, Fire or Ambulance service has a critical dependency on their contact centre being available to field and service emergency calls, whereas a retailer offering a contact centre as a sales channel has less of a critical dependency as alternative digital channels such as web are often available.

Understanding the criticality of your contact centre operation is key when it comes to planning, designing and implementing contact centre technology and operational processes. To help shape this understanding, analysis should be carried out in relation to customer impact, operational risk, and reputational damage to determine the availability, resilience and business continuity requirements for each contact centre channel

Using criticality as the primary variable, teams responsible for designing the contact centre must decide whether the contact centre platform is designed to be fault tolerant, highly available, or built on a best endeavour’s basis.

Table 1. indicates the key parameters of each of these design approaches in more detail; 

Design Approach Resilience Availability SLA Cost
Fault Tolerant Full hardware redundancy operating in an active / active mode 99.999% - 100% High
Highly Available Software-based redundancy operating in an active / passive mode 99.9% - 99.99% Medium
Best Endeavours Single instance with no resiliency 95% - 99% Low

Where criticality is deemed to be very high, a fault tolerant platform consisting of two (or more) systems would operate in tandem, mirroring identical applications and executing instructions in line with one another. When a hardware failure occurs in the primary system, the secondary system running an identical application simultaneously takes over with no loss of service and zero downtime.

Where criticality is deemed to be medium to high, a highly available platform which typically uses a software-based approach to minimising downtime should be deployed. Rather than replicating redundant physical hardware, this solution clusters a set of systems together that monitor each other and have failover capabilities. When something goes wrong on the primary system, be it a software error, application failure, or hardware fault, one of the backup systems springs into action and restarts the applications that were active on the crashed system.

Where criticality is deemed to be low, a best endeavours platform could be deployed. Typically, this platform would consist of a single system instance with no backup. 

Operational Accessibility

The second important consideration to take into account during the planning and design phase of a resilient contact centre is accessibility. Recent events have highlighted that even the most fault tolerant contact centres have experienced major issues when trying to enable contact centre home working at scale.

The same three criteria (customer impact, operational risk and reputational damage) used to analyse criticality can also be used to analyse and understand your accessibility requirements.

For example, what will be the customer impact if 50% of the workforce is unable to access the contact centre platform (due to a power outage, evacuation, health pandemic etc.)

Impact Mitigation Options Resilience Requirements
High Divert interactions to alternative capability | Enable homeworker access Ability to re-route interactions | Resilient home worker access | Resilient connectivity
Medium Queue interactions | Deflect interactions to alternative channel Resilient queue capacity
Low Deflect interactions to alternative channel | Do nothing None

The final consideration to take into account is service provider resilience. Although contact centres come in all shapes and sizes, one commonality is that interactions in and out of the contact centre are almost always dependant on a service provider. At one end of the scale this will be limited to services such as SIP and internet connectivity, but at the other end, particularly when we think about CCaaS solutions, the entire contact centre stack will be hosted by a service provider.

We always must remember that any solution is only as good as its weakest link and therefore it is crucial to analyse and understand your service provider’s interaction routing design and platform connectivity to ensure it is built in a resilient (either fault tolerant or highly available) way which fully aligns to your expectations. 

Conclusions

To conclude, thinking about contact centre resilience in the context of business criticality, agent accessibility, and service provider design will hold you in good stead when embarking on contact centre design. Taking these elements into consideration at the planning and design phase will ensure the technology, processes and people will be aligned to meet your operational needs when things inevitably go wrong!! 

Immediate Actions

Due to issues caused by the current pandemic, TNC anticipates that in the coming months, organisations will be reviewing the tactical fixes put in place to bolster up their contact centre resilience and accessibility. Given the ever-changing technical landscape and increasing uptake in cloud-based contact centre services, TNC expects demand for change in this area to be high. TNC has many years of experience working with organisations to design, assess, source and deliver resilient contact centres, both traditional on premise and as a cloud service, and has gained a wealth of expertise, data, and market insight. If you would like to contact to us about what services we offer, we would be delighted to share our insight and approach with you. 

TNC delivers over 100 major programmes per year

Disclaimer

Other than matters relating to The Network Collective, this research is based on current public information that we consider reliable. Opinions expressed may change without notice and may differ from views set out in other documents created by The Network Collective. The above information is provided for informational purposes only and without any obligation, whether contractual or otherwise. No warranty or representation is made as to the correctness, completeness and accuracy of the information given or the assessments made.

This research does not constitute a personal recommendation or take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situations, or needs of individual clients. Clients should consider whether any advice or recommendation in this research is suitable for their particular circumstances and, if appropriate, seek professional advice.

No part of this material may be (i) copied, photocopied or duplicated in any form by any means or (ii) redistributed without the prior written consent of The Network Collective Limited © 2020

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