How Contact Centers Can Survive the Holiday Rush

With the high shopping season around the corner, company call centers are bracing themselves for the deluge of traffic in the lead up to the end of the year and the world’s busiest shopping period.

Even with the most sophisticated planning and technology, there’s always a situation that a contact center did not anticipate. What if those centers had the ability to accurately mimic the onslaught of traffic ahead of time? Being able to simulate the stress put on systems would allow for identification and rectification of most issues before it is crunch time.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

When you’re looking at your web browser or using your phone to contact banks and airlines, core data processing lies underneath the surface. Way below the user interface are processes relying on complex database interactions. Improper network configuration, service data settings, or data provisioning items (such as the number of allocated ports) are so subtle they can go unnoticed. Everything can appear to run well, even at up to 60 percent capacity.

It’s not until you go above 60 percent capacity that you see response times begin to slow down. All of a sudden, a task that used to take one second now takes five. At full load, the entire system may keel over. Any underlying miss-configuration have the potential to cause a major issue that affects your business.

Here are three easy steps your company could follow to better predict and fix problems before they become major issues:

1. Start Your Engines

If you’re going to race, you wouldn’t bring your car directly to the racetrack without any preparation. If your car had only ever reached a maximum speed of 55 miles per hour, you would have no idea what to expect if it was supposed to reach 120 miles per hour on race day. The same applies to data processing systems, and contact centers in particular. You’ll want to push the car to see if it’s going to be able to stand up to the pressure. If anything goes wrong, you’ll be able to fix it before you ever need to get up to full speed.

2. Monitor Your Gauges

The best way to find out if your car is ready for the race is by looking at its gauges. You need to pay careful attention to how your data processing systems are performing by looking for any sign of weakness. While you’re revving your engines, pay special attention to anything out of the ordinary. Any irregularities in your infrastructure can lead to a catastrophic failure and subsequent outage.

3. Conduct a Practice Session

Scribbling down a plan for the worst-case scenario and hoping for the best won’t prepare you for an emergency. Practice in advance what you’ll do when that inevitable outage occurs. It could be something that happens in your own internal data processing, your network service provider, or your cloud data processing service provider.

Exercise your business continuation plan ahead of time under real-world conditions. If you run through a few drills, you’ll learn exactly what you need to do in order to keep the system robust. You’ll also uncover problems you wouldn’t have been able to foresee. Those 'unknown-unknowns' tend to emerge under pressure during the most difficult situations.

Take your systems out for a test drive, figure out what’s going to happen when they’re under load, and get them properly instrumented so you can watch the situation in real-time. You can gain major insight by paying attention to what’s going on under the hood.

Once you make strategic corrections from this insight, you won’t have the same downtime issues should the problem occur in the future. Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to run your staff through exactly what they’ll need to do when something does go wrong. Practice is key—it really helps to keep everything running smoothly in your production environment.

It is possible to prevent catastrophic downtime during the busiest time of the year. All it takes is a bit of preparation and practice ahead of time.

About Mike Burke

Mike has banked more than 40 years in telecommunications, contact centers and networking while working at Honeywell (News - Alert), GTE, Verizon & IQ Services.  Since joining IR, Mike’s participated in hundreds of engagements to monitor, measure, and manage customer service experience for clients worldwide representing all verticals. Prior to IR, Mike was involved in a 90s Internet start–up, wrote code for Centrex, designed and built networks for the DoD and helped introduce DSL services for the RBOCs.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere