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Why You Need to Test Your Continuity Plan

As businesses evolve to meet customer demands, customer service continuity planning is essential. Testing customer service plans regularly is the best way for a business to assess how well its contingency plans will work when disaster strikes. There are many potential disruptions that could occur that could affect your customers’ satisfaction and trust. Your customer service continuity plan should test for these disruptions and help you prepare in order to reduce their impact on customer experience by quickly flexing operations without compromising quality or safety. Testing your customer service continuity plan is vital in ensuring customers receive the level of service they expect, no matter what situation may present itself.

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What is a Customer Service Continuity Plan?

A customer service continuity plan encompasses a set of strategies and procedures that help a company maintain or quickly restore customer service operations in the event of an unexpected disruption, such as a natural disaster, cyber-attack, or another emergency. 

The goal of a continuity plan is to minimize the impact of disruptions on the organization’s operations and stakeholders and to ensure that customer service operations can continue without significant interruption.

A continuity plan should include the following important items:

  1. Identification of critical customer service processes.
  2. Assessment of potential risks and vulnerabilities.
  3. Development of contingency plans for different scenarios.
  4. Implementation of disaster recovery procedures and communication plans.
  5. Testing and updating the plan on a regular basis to ensure its effectiveness and relevance.

Having a comprehensive customer service continuity plan in place helps organizations prepare for, respond to, and recover from unexpected disruptions, reducing the risk of significant financial or reputational harm.

What to Do After Creating a Customer Service Continuity Plan?

Your business continuity plan is done, and you’re ready to start training your teams. Where do you start? The most important element of a well-prepared plan is a well-prepared team who can execute efficiently and at a moment’s notice.

Running drills to test out your plan is absolutely necessary and vital to the successful execution of your hard work at meticulous planning. Drills help you to identify issues, weaknesses and afford you the opportunity to address those before you actually need to put your plan in action. Don’t forget this crucial step, as it’s the key to keep your business up and running in the event of a catastrophe.

(See infographic below ↓)

Something to note – creating a business continuity plan (BCP) and performing disaster recovery (DR) testing are related but are different. A BCP is what your company needs to do to keep your products and services available to your customers. DR testing is specific to your company’s systems and technology, and how to repair and regain them should they go down. DR testing should follow BCP testing.

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Shutterstock; Photo by Oleksiy Mark

Before You Start Testing

Check on governmental and corporate compliance regulations. It would be a fatal mistake to get so far down the line and then realize you missed something and have to start over. The next thing to identify is benchmarks for your testing. Gather your core team together and discuss what results you expect and also what the minimum acceptance level is. Try to shoot for a higher mark than the minimum to give yourself some room for unexpected issues.

Clear and concise communications with your team, partners and vendors is paramount to the success of your disaster plan. Determine the channels to alert stakeholders to disaster, and include everyone who might possibly be affected, including clients, customers, vendors and partners. Address how to mitigate client concerns and who is responsible, assess damage and report updates, and timing of those communications. Will you need a spokesperson for media inquiries? Do you have resources for social media updates or client outreach? Finally, when the event is over, discuss how will you wrap up loose ends and report those out.

African American businesswoman explaining project strategy

Shutterstock; Photo by fizkes

So, What Types of Disasters Should You Plan For?

Given recent events, we know anything can happen at any time, more than ever. From wildfires to global pandemics to freak storms, there are any number of possibilities when it comes to natural catastrophes. Also consider information disasters – data loss, breaches and trying to recover intelligence. Additionally, network or power outages may bring your business to a complete halt.

Now that you have identified potential scenarios, in what ways do you test out your plan and what types of testing should you do? Don’t make the mistake of only doing one. You want to try a few different tests to understand all of the potential issues. Try a walkthrough with your entire disaster recovery team. Take it step-by-step so everyone understands their roles and responsibilities and has the opportunity to ask questions. With a surprise drill, you announce to your teams to shut down systems and communicate to your constituents that a drill is in play. A simulation drill walks through specific situations, say a power outage caused by a natural disaster, and is helpful for hands-on training purposes. To determine whether your teams respond appropriately, and critical systems work as planned, try a functional drill as a pre-test of your disaster recovery plan. A full-scale test mimics a real emergency most closely. Systems are powered down, teams are mobilized, communication responses are activated. This gives you the opportunity to see whether actions items are executed within the appropriate timeframe and are completed effectively.

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How Can a Customer Service BPO Improve Your Continuity Plan?

A customer service business process outsourcing (BPO) company can improve your continuity plan by providing the following benefits:

Scalability: Customer service BPOs have a large pool of resources, which means they can quickly scale up or down to meet changing business needs. This helps ensure that your business can continue operating during periods of increased demand or unexpected disruptions.

Expertise: BPOs have specialized teams trained in specific processes and industries, allowing you to tap into their expertise and experience. This can help you improve the efficiency and resilience of your operations.

Cost savings: By outsourcing customer service operations to a BPO, you can reduce costs associated with managing, training and retaining staff for these functions. This can help you allocate resources to other areas of your business and improve overall cost-effectiveness.

Improved risk management: BPOs typically have established disaster recovery and business continuity plans in place, which can help mitigate the impact of disruptions to your business.

Partnering with a customer service BPO can help you improve the robustness and efficiency of your continuity plan, reducing the risk of disruptions and ensuring your business can continue operating smoothly.

After Running Exhaustive Tests

What needs to be changed or modified? Have you identified any gaps in your processes? Document the results and discuss with your team how to address vulnerabilities.

Remember testing is something your teams should do regularly. Things change often, and you want your plan to reflect those changes. Schedule quarterly or annual reviews and run drills often to keep everyone informed and empowered.

Now your team is prepared. Everything is documented and ready to go. Congratulations! You have taken the most important step in protecting your business and your brand relationships. They now know you have them covered should anything go awry, thus adding more value to both your relationship and your brand integrity. Whenever disaster strikes, you’ll know exactly what to do to protect your business and that of your clients and customers.

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