Disaster Response for Call Centers 

The proliferation of the novel corona virus, COVID-19, reminds us that building resiliency and adding capacity to your your municipality’s contact center rapidly is critical to respond to spikes in constituent interactions

We’ve all heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  That axiom is seldom truer than when it comes for preparing for a crisis.  Most large cities and counties have detailed plans in each department for a variety of potential disruption eventshowever smaller municipalities are often much less prepared and equipped to manage a serious disruption.     

Assessing potential risks and building a plan to address readiness deficiencies BEFORE its needed will almost certainly help avoid common missteps that can cost significantly longer and deeper disruptions to constituent services, and require far more resources to remedy than they would had proper planning occurred.  The following lesson learned and how to-guide are designed to assist you in assessing and addressing your municipality’s risks – specifically for your call center or the constituent information and contact centers.  


disaster response truck handling supplies

3 Key Self-Assessment Questions:

1. Is my current service team ready and capable to work from home?

2. What if the number of inbound constituent requests increased by 2x? 10x? 100x?

3. What tools do I have to empower my team to support a massive increase in volume?

Address your disaster response readiness with this three-pronged strategy:

1. People

  • Capacity Challenges
  • Agents taking phone calls during a crisis need shorter shifts to avoid both physical and emotional burnout
  • Promote agent self-care by encouraging longer breaks and providing wellness time and advice
  • Create simple, web-based courses for tier one or zero call takers to increase the speed at which you can scale
  • Agent Performance Challenges
  • Quality monitoring because more important when people work from home
direct interactions employees with disabled worker handling calls
Call center operations manager using tablet

2. Process 

  • Message Control and Crisis Communication:
  • Create processes and deploy technology tools for measuring and identifying trends in constituent communications in near-real time.  Timely and accurate information that’s consistent across all communication channels are critical when communicating  
  • Identify your subject matter expertise and sources.  Designate the “system of truth” from which new information and updates will be disseminated.  All other systems and agent resources will be dependent on a single source.  Inconsistent or out of date messaging will only drive up case counts and increase  
  • Develop different communication plans for different communication channels that all work around a centralize information hub – this can be something as simple as a shared chat room in an application like Microsoft Teams or Slack.   

3. Technology – Use Technology as a Force Multiplier:

  • Develop Call Defection Strategies and focus on ways to gauge the effectiveness of your messaging by measuring inbound incident type. 
  • Allow constituents to report incidents and share information with you via the least resource intensive channel possible.  While many constituents will be well served by website and social media posts, members of your community at the highest risk during an event will most likely still prefer direct communications through phone, email, or SMS.  
call center data operations center

… And Follow-up with This 5-point Checklist for Crisis Contact and Information Centers:

  • Assess your current disaster readiness:  (Especially community health departments)
  • Prepare a plan:
    • Find a partner:  either a vendor of a crisis buddy municipality with whom you can pool and share resources.  Select a partner in a different geographical region from your own
  • Test your plan
  • Test your plan from both an internal and external audience perspective.
  • Adjust your plan (Accountability)