Telephone Systems and Business Continuity – Over the past years/decades there have been some terrible things happen around the world that couldn’t have been foreseen, apart from the obvious damage to people and property these event’s have caused interruption to businesses as well.
If your business is one where you need to be there to serve your customers, a coffee shop for example then this article might not help you, but if your business is one that isn’t physically customer facing, for example most office staff function with a computer and a phone and never meet customers face to face then this article might be of use to you.
In the UK we get snow, personally I like snow, however in recent years it has brought large areas of the country to a standstill and for several days at a time, we have all seen it on the news and probably been stuck in it somewhere.
More recently in the UK there has been a lot of flooding in certain areas.
And of course other problems, gas leaks, crime scenes etc.
All of the above stop your staff getting into the office to answer the phones and deal with your customers enquiries and sales.
There might be flooding in York or snow in Manchester, but a customer in Devon who doesn’t actually know your offices are in the north still expects to be able to call you and buy some widgets, or complain that the ones he ordered yesterday haven’t arrived yet.
But your phones do not get answered if no-one can make it into the office.
So what happens now differs between customers and businesses but generally there seems to be a common theme,
- Loss of business (loss of profit)
- Unhappy customers (loss of profit)
- Extra workload for staff maybe overtime (loss of profit)
So what happens when someone phones in and doesn’t get answered?
New customers who phone and don’t get answered will seek an alternate supplier (result, loss of profit).
Existing customers who haven’t been customers for very long and not have much loyalty may seek an alternate supplier (result, loss of profit).
Existing customers who are loyal will be upset and will want to know why they couldn’t order their widgets and what “you” are going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again. This means putting in extra effort to please them and maybe also putting some extra free widgets in the box (result, loss of profit).
If your phone system has a message facility, voicemail, answer phone, these will get filled up with messages and complaints, all these have to be processed by the staff on their return along with the “[email protected]” mailbox which is also full of complaints.
Remote access to computer systems is really easy nowadays, and with a lot of systems being web based these too are easy to access from home.
But how do you remotely answer that big black phone on your desk?
There are several main methods of solving this problem:
1. Panic and find a company who can drop what they are doing to help you (they might be stuck in snow as well), this will have a price tag, a time delay and is stressful.
2. Have an established relationship with a company that can invoke your Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity plan with one phone call/email from you.
3. Have an established relationship with a company that provides failover services in the event your phones don’t get answered, this doesn’t need a phone call from you to invoke it is always there and working.
I don’t recommend option 1 for obvious reasons, however it is the most widely adopted option, do nothing until it really is a problem, then shout at some supplier to sort it out for me.
Options 2 and 3 can be setup in advance and with many hosted telephony systems suppliers to choose from there appears to be lots of choice, but make sure you choose one who is experienced in Disaster Recover/Business Continuity so you get the right advice for your business.
I personally like option 3, it doesn’t need a “named” person to invoke DR, you might be that named person and might be on holiday or unavailable to make a 2 minute call.
Option 3 is there and working all the time, much like an overflow system except your staff can use a PC softphone (supplied for free) at home on their home PC to access the incoming calls and make outgoing calls, combine that with voicemail to email and instead of returning to the office to an overflowing answering machine/voicemail box the messages come to you in real-time via email, they even come to your phone (if it mail enabled).
So now you have your key staff safely tucked up at home and still dealing with your customers enquiries.
- less traffic stuck in the snow
- happy staff “get to work from home”
- happy customers, are able to order their widgets
- happy you, if staff and customer are happy then you are happy also, right?
Its a win win win win and if it’s setup in advance, it can be automatic and not as expensive as you might think.
Jon Aston has been involved with Telephony and Telephony Systems since the mid 80’s and has seen the progress and changes from Analog to Digital, Mobile and now VoIP systems.
He has also worked for and in a Major Telecoms PLC a Major Outsourced Service Provider “Hewlett Packard” and several large chemical/pharmaceutical/manufacturing companies where Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity processes were a standard part of the business.