Tips on Protecting Your Contact Center

By |2019-04-26T16:25:57+00:00April 16th, 2019|0 Comments

For those of you whose organization use a contact center to handle incoming phone calls you know how important the system is to your business.  But how well are you protecting that important investment?  What would your organization do if suddenly its contact center system ceased to function?  In this article we’ll offer tips to help ensure your system and its operation can be protected and recovered in an emergency.  

Contact center systems used to be called automatic call distributors (ACDs) before advances in technology made them compatible with corporate information systems.  Today a contact center system can integrate with a variety of business systems, databases and other information assets.  Callers interact with the contact center from the moment their call is answered.  Figure 1 below depicts a typical contact center configuration.  

In a premises-based contact center system, most of the hardware and software components are located on-site in a data center or communications equipment room.  The advent of voice over IP (VoIP) technology now makes it possible to have many of these components located in a premises data center or a remotely hosted environment, such as a cloud-based contact center service.  

Each of the above components is a critical part of the total contact center, and must be protected in the event of a disruptive event.  Perhaps the most important technology component to protect in a contact center is the database with all agent details, call routing details, and interface software that links and synchronizes information systems with the contact center and the agents using it.  And of course the other critical component is the people who use the system to handle customer inquiries. 

Tips for Protecting Your Contact Center 

Key technology components that need to be recovered for an operational contact center include the system hardware, the incoming and outgoing network services, the information systems, contact-center-to-information-system interface, the system database, and access to commercial power.  Ensuring that employees are protected is the other key activity to address.  

Let’s examine some activities that can help ensure uninterrupted contact center service.  

  1. Build an inventory of spare system components – These can include agent station and network service access circuit boards, other system modules, and agent telephones.  Test these components periodically by swapping them into the system to ensure they work properly and tag them to note when they were last tested. 
  2. Create backup copies of the system database – These are critical when restarting a system that has crashed or has lost power.  Keep them in a secure area with access only by authorized employees.
  3. Backup power systems – These can include uninterruptible power systems (UPS), standalone batteries, and external emergency power systems, such as diesel generators.
  4. Diversely routed access facilities – If possible ensure that incoming calls can be routed into the system by more than one path, so that if one path is damaged an alternate path can handle calls.  This is also true for outgoing calls.
  5. Locate the system in a secure area – If possible locate the system and its components in a secure area, such as a data center or separate communications room, with access restricted to authorized employees.  
  6. Train additional employees on the system Have several employees cross-trained in the contact center system to serve as alternates for agents who are unavailable.  This is also true for contact center management staff.  
  7. Arrange for alternate contact center space in an emergency – If your organization uses a VoIP-based or hosted contact center system, it may be possible to recover the center to an alternate location, so long as Internet access is available.  
  8. Document disaster recovery (DR) procedures in a plan – Don’t depend on memory when recovering a contact center; have all the recovery steps documented in a step-by-step plan.  Work with the contact center vendor when preparing such a plan, and test it periodically, at least twice annually. 
  9. Document DR procedures for recovering network services – If the network services transporting calls to your contact center are disrupted, have a documented set of steps to coordinate recovery with the local carrier(s) that provide incoming and outgoing service. This also includes Internet access, especially if you have a VoIP-based system.  
  10. If you have a hosted contact center, work with the vendor for disaster recovery – See if the vendor has DR procedures they can share with you, or if they can partner with your organization to create a customized DR plan. 

Summary

Contact centers are key business assets, and should be protected the same as any other assets.  Many contact center systems today use VoIP technology to greatly improve service.  Securing that technology is critical, as the system leverages data networks using VoIP protocols.  An investment in network security can provide protection to today’s advanced contact centers.  Be sure to also invest in your contact center staff, as they are a critical asset to the business.  

Recommended1 recommendationPublished in Communications & Network

About the Author:

Paul Kirvan, FBCI, CISA, is an independent business resilience consultant, IT auditor, technical writer and project manager with over 25 years of experience.  Previously Mr. Kirvan was a founding board member and secretary of the Business Continuity Institute’s USA Chapter, and a member of the international board of the BCI. Mr. Kirvan is currently a Fellow of the Business Continuity Institute (FBCI) and a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). Email: [email protected] LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulkirvan/

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