Monday, 7 May 2012


Following on from our post on Business Continuity, this blog looks at planning for disaster recovery.

While organisations should analyse critical and non-critical threats to their business continuity, planning for disaster recovery is considering your options in the worst case scenario, even if you have done everything possible to eliminate critical service outages in your business activities. It is an admission that not all threats can be anticipated, but that you can still plan a range of effective responses to detect, prevent or react to critical threats to the organisation to reduce their impact.

What should be in the plan?
Your plan should specify your policy objectives; your mission (what you do), your continuity targets (service reliability targets, system uptime perhaps), and what you define as the levels of severity of an incident or service disruption that would trigger a disaster recovery level response across the organisation.

The plan should make key risk assessments of critical threats to service continuity, and provide plans to prevent, mitigate and respond to each threat.

The plan should be accessible; perhaps as both a centrally located physical and web-based staff handbook. It should specify the chain of command once disaster is declared, and the activation plans, teams, and key staff contacts needed to respond to events.

Particular attention should be paid to technical systems, security and provider support for these if systems are down; depending on your business, this might be alternative internet access; firewalls; phone systems; CCTV; back up generators; replicated live mirror servers; and what the provider response times are for these systems 24x7 if all or any of the above are down.

The handbook should also map out a chain of command during a disaster and provide sufficiently detailed procedures for various tasks to ensure that the Disaster Recovery Coordinator can delegate effectively once an incident is in play.

Major Threats
In our planning these have been grouped functionally; whether premises are out of commission due to flood, fire earthquake, war or terrorist attack or vandalism, will not affect our practical response although the preventative measures possible will vary according to whether a threat is the result of a deliberate human action of a natural disaster.

Common areas to consider are people (continuity, availability, security); premises (main sites, backup facilities); technology (backups, security, servers, failover capabilities when systems fail, provider response times and contacts); power (generator and back up facilities). We say that we have redundancy in a system when we have a back up in place; we have failover level of redundancy when one system fails another automatically kicks in to provide service continuity.

Most businesses should also consider financial threats in disaster planning; that is, how you can insure or order your business to avoid catastrophic financial risk.

The pitfalls vary with your line of business. Professional indemnity insurance is essential for anyone making their living by giving professional advice. Landlords should take out landlord’s insurance which will not only cover against a nominated loss of rent, but insure against malicious damage; if a tenant burns down a building, normal building insurance won’t cover you. If intellectual property is a key asset, you will need both security and confidentiality agreements in place to protect this, and perhaps patent or copyright protection as well. Organisations may be liable to large fines in some instances for failing to take action. Reliance for most of your business with a few customers could constitute a risk to your business that could be reduced by having more customers in more than one major service sector. Considering how you might structure a major contract that might not be renewed is also something that you can plan for to reduce risks to your business.

Tests, incidents and the aftermath
The plan should be thought of as a continuous feedback loop not unlike WHS planning that comprises scheduled tests, detailed incident logs of problems encountered during live and test incidents for review by management and reporting arising to the Board (or equivalent) and recommendations for procedural or policy changes or major investment decisions for feedback into the plan.

You should be able to track new versions of the plan from the incident logs and deliberations that led to changes to the plan. 

Often it is the small things that trip you up during a disaster, and working through the detail (in planning or the aftermath) will make your responses faster and smoother in any future crisis.

Monday, 30 April 2012


Whether they have one or not, most businesses know that they should have a plan against adversity. There are websites, step by step software and consultants out there to help you, but over successive posts we would like to share a DIY perspective of planning for business continuity, disaster recovery and how this meshes with Emergency Management.


In essence, your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is a plan to continuing operations under adverse conditions. It analyses internal and external threats, and the responses available to you to avoid, reduce or respond to these risks.

Plans will vary with the mission and scale of organisations, and may focus on supply chain interruption, evacuation drills, loss or damage of critical infrastructure, security and corporate reputation. It can be an excellent organisational learning tool if underpinned by a systematic review of all the processes required to keep your enterprise going in the short and medium term; that is, what needs to happen each day, week, month or year to keep going.

Business Continuity planning looks at non-critical processes, and what happens if they fail. It should also be a feedback loop; the plan is a working document as events unfold or conditions change, so the process or review – reporting when and how to whom – should also be addressed. You should be able to track versions of your BCP via incident logs over time.

A sub-set of the plan is your Disaster Recovery Plan; this defines what a critical service interruption is, and the systematic approach that can be taken to prevent or reduce risk or activate response procedures. (This will be covered in the next blog.)

Fleshing out the BCP
Divide your business processes into the major areas of concern and, in order of process or importance, itemise the key tasks that need to happen. Common categories are people, financial, premises, sales processes, technical or production processes.

Most of these processes should be happening already, but you may also wish to link tasks to individual performance indicators for particular staff; being clear about time frames, deadlines and responsibilities is important, and managers will want to be able to check periodically that the processes supposed to happen actually are being done as per the plan. Key tests may also be scheduled.

Even routine tasks can prove toxic to an organisation if not rigorously observed. Your audit could include checklists for running accounts, invoices, and back ups, month-end and year end processes; compliance with tax and labour regulations; tracking cash flow and budgets; checklists of key dates (BAS reports and payments, insurance renewals, accreditation or first aid certificate renewal dates, leases on assets and premises, staff leave and public holiday arrangements, and WHS site checks all come to mind). Regular marketing deadlines, training, new business development planning and business documentation processes could also be considered in the long term as part of your normal business cycle.

You may wish to bring together the plan as an overview (more like a policy) and specify the detail in a handbook, with all the contacts, file locations and specifics. One advantage of doing this is clarity; in a long detailed document it is easy to get bogged down with detail. Having an overview may also be easier for you in terms of confidentiality if you are asked to produce this document in external sales contexts.

BCP and Business Planning
The level of regulatory compliance in Australian business is now such that Well Done took the step of employing a CPA as our Compliance Officer; as we moved from a small to medium scale business, the Board deemed the risks of not doing so to be unacceptable. But it’s not an unrewarding burden. Take the next step and you can use this information to look for gaps in your existing plans, and do a periodic SWOT analysis for threats and opportunities. Do this as a group activity with your key management and invite some independent external experts every year or two and you should be better able to spot how your organisation is exposed to risk and think outside the box about where and how you might take the business to the next level.

The importance of Perspective
The top down view can be interesting because it can flag to you considerations that you might otherwise miss when hiring new staff, for instance. In my previous blog, HR expert Anita Radisic emphasised the importance of defining the job and looking at the demonstrated skill set and the attitude of the applicants in hand. From a business continuity perspective, however, your staff have strategic significance as well.

Based on our business continuity planning, we realised that it is vital to ensure that all key management always have an acting second in the wings, and that the ability to select at least some staff for internal promotion is a prerequisite for this to work. Internal promotion career pathways can also help develop understanding across different parts of the business and be a great motivator for your existing staff when opportunities are fairly offered on merit. From the business’ point of view, this is actually also a low risk approach, because if you employ someone with potential in one role, you can see how they perform in a range of situations and test them out in acting roles before committing to the higher appointment.

Recruitment is also a great way to buy-in new skills or knowledge to the organisation. When you recruit new people from outside the organisation for management roles, consider what new skill set that they can bring to your business, and what the existing staff can learn from them.

Continuity of Knowledge and Skills
How knowledge is routinely shared within the organisation impacts on your ability to respond to adverse conditions.

At Well Done we plan to have several people familiar with at least some parts of all work tasks. Client Services requests have been moved to centrally monitored CSR ticketing system with appropriate ETA response time frames so that the first available team member can do the work. Emails to individuals are discouraged as you have continuity problems if a person is on leave for any reason, and they may not be actioned in the time frame. The use of some group email addresses routed to several individuals by function can also reduce reliance on individuals.

We also have internal web-based wikis for different work groups (IT, Operations and Sales) to help newcomers orient to tasks, and as a time saving reference for more experienced staff about facts and processes that are used less often. Your business has paid staff to compile this information and it shouldn’t leave the business when individuals eventually move on!

Formal training documentation is helpful in this regard also, and at Well Done we have a number of internally produced training modules to support various services and that, taken as a group, are structured to facilitate operator progression through skills based queues in our Call Centres.

Centrally accessible procedural information linked to your BCP will also help you respond to adverse events. If this is sufficiently detailed, it will enable managers to delegate tasks across the team during an incident.

Taking it Seriously
One disadvantage of off the shelf software approach to BCP is that, as with some aspects of OH&S planning, if it seems fanciful, your people won’t take it seriously.

By sticking to the core threats to your business, and the key processes that you know must happen without fail, your plan can become a useful checklist to avoiding problems or at least managing risk. Your staff and managers also need to take responsibility for their part of the work, which they will also avoid if it seems irrelevant.

Relevance and process, and commitment driven from the top of your organisation down are all vital to the successful implementation of your Business Continuity Plan.

A final note

This blog has been written from the viewpoint of a business, but business continuity does figure prominently in our work at Well Done because we support so many other businesses and government agencies. Outsourcing call handling or escalation activations of staff and contractors on call to a specialist contact centre is an option most businesses should consider in their BCP, and the discipline of specifying this work for an independent third party is a good one for most managers in fair weather or foul.

For more information:
  • – for a more technical BCP template
  • A number of state government departments offer free templates to work through (e.g. -
We suggest that you heavily customise or totally rewrite any template you use to fit your style of business and internal documentation to encourage your people to ‘own’ it. You can always add further detail over time as part of the process.

For sales enquiries with Well Done -

Friday, 16 March 2012


Recruiting the best people is critical to the success of any business, so there was a great deal of interest this week when the National Local Government Customer Service Network invited an industry expert in recruiting, Anita Radisic of Humanis Group, to offer insights into effective recruitment practices in the current environment.

A key change in recent years has been the proliferation of professional resume writing services. A brilliant resume guarantees nothing anymore, and participants at the seminar recounted times when applicants selected for interview appeared to be unaware of the contents of their submissions!

Private and public sector differences were also apparent, with Councils bound by tighter external scrutiny of processes and quite varied HR guidelines about how they could contact applicants, how fast a position could be offered, and how long the details of a shortlisted candidate could be kept on file if initially unsuccessful. In the private sector, for example, Anita recommended leaving no more than 10 days between interviews and the offer of a position, but it this could take up to 3 months in the public sector, with the real risk of losing the best candidates.

Anita offered the following tips for effective recruitment:

Be clear about the essential criteria and sift for a close match
  • Check resumes for relevance to the job specifications, but don't exclude candidates for failing to meet a small part of the brief until you have considered their capability; if the can easily obtain those skills and have the right attitude, they may still be the best fit for the job.
  • Look for examples to demonstrate the skills claimed.
  • Avoid over-qualified people unless you can offer career paths; the job needs to be within the capabilities of the candidate yet still represent some challenge or improvement to keep people even in the medium term.
 Pre-screening is essential
  • Telephone screen all promising candidates after the first review of submissions. Ask why they applied, why they want to make a change, and raise the likely remuneration early - you need to be sure that they have the right attitude and would be likely to accept the job, if offered. The whole recruitment process is a lot of work, so the culling process is all about finding people with the right skill set who will be a good cultural fit to the organisation, and not wasting time.
The interview shortlist
  • Check references and invite only a very short list of qualifying candidates for an interview, perhaps up to 5. Schedule all interviews on one day, if possible, and explain to candidate that you will be taking notes during the interview.
  • People interviewed should meet the job skill requirements already, so you will be checking for attitude and 'fit' with the business and making sure that the resume accurately reflects their experience. Problem solving scenarios can be a good way to assess higher level skill sets. Check that claimed qualifications were actually completed. 

  • Following the interview, where possible, set tests for specific skills. For example, Humanis does this for standard office software, typing, or ability to do a trial balance for accounts positions, where these skills are a requirement. 

  • Discuss remuneration and conditions, when and how you will contact the candidate with your decision, and invite candidates to ask questions about the job, the work, and the organisation.
The Decision
  • Make a decision soon, ideally in the next day or so, and contact the preferred candidate with your offer. If they do not immediately accept, there may be issues that were not adequately raised from the outset (location, remunerations and work aspirations) and you may have a problem, so do not allow much time for prevarication.

  • Advise all outcomes of the outcome in writing promptly. Anita recommends a short explanation that another candidate proved a better fit for the position along with helpful feedback where the applicant was weaker, but to avoid getting into correspondence on the topic by restating the reason given, if questioned further. 

Recruitment at Well Done

Recruitment is critical for us, too, at Well Done, because we offer such complex and tailored services to a wide range of clients. The standard agent profile for the call centre industry is well regarded at Well Done, but is not in itself, sufficient to ensure success. 

Beyond telephone manner and computer skills, we look for resilience, common sense, reliability and team work in potential staff. Temperament is also important, as not everyone can cope with answering calls for a variety of organisations without knowing which one will be next; the agents who thrive in our work typically enjoy this challenge. Often personal referral by someone who works here can be beneficial, because the candidate can have a better understanding of what the work involves, and a buddy on hand to help.

The work is rostered 24x7, and lends itself to a variety of work-life equations. Age and work continuity are no barrier; we have students, carers, and mature age people who bring a variety of life experiences to the job in our call centres. Engagement with the work and reliability are very important; we make a big commitment to ongoing training, so developing and retaining staff is a key focus.

For more information

Friday, 24 February 2012

Measuring Customer Service Satisfaction

Whether you are answering enquiries yourself, employ staff that answer calls, or outsource to call answering to a call centre, the call outcomes and customer service experience warrant close attention.

Having an answering service can be an important backup to the small business entrepreneur that tries to handle everything, so reliable answering, a cheerful manner and message accuracy will be the key. For the bigger business, you can lose quality and consistency to your handling of new sales enquiries during a campaign when you ask your foreman or accountant to answer the phone when things get busy; more careful design of the sales process is important as you scale up. And when you use a call centre, it pays to talk with the people who set up your service to get a better understanding of how you should structure your scripting and call handling procedures, so that someone answering your enquiries on standby can run with this easily even if they personally don’t take many of your calls.

In other words, you have to consider the context in which your enquiries are made, and what you can do to ensure that the caller finds it easy to contact you and receives excellent customer service. But how can we measure this, particularly when it may be that we can’t always provide what the caller wants?

Think like your customers

Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and replicating the experience is a good way to see the pitfalls in your service handling, and working through this with your staff or call centre provider is the next step.

If you can’t help with a particular product or issue, sounding like you have understood and care about the customer’s concerns is a start. Being able and willing to suggest alternatives is often appreciated and still considered as good customer service.

Look at the various channels available to a customer to contact you. A phone number on your website answered 24x7 lends credibility. Social media can be useful in different contexts; users have formed self-help communities for software and systems; professionals might post on new research in their area of expertise; it’s being used by local government agencies to post updates about cultural events and unfolding emergencies. Try getting people from different ages and backgrounds to navigate your website and ask how clear everything was and what problems they encountered. Do your search fields react to both a click and the enter key? (I've seen this glitch on an online booking form once and couldn't immediately see why my quote failed to appear.) Can people find the information they want?

If you are using a call centre, service issues can arise from overly complicated procedures combined with low call volumes, gaps in the training for your service, technical issues that need to be isolated and rectified, or a problem with an individual agent. There are processes to track these through and ideally you’ll want to work through this with providers that you can communicate openly with to get the best results for your service.

Testing relevance
You will get a better response from your staff if you involve them in the customer service evaluation process and get their commitment to improvement in customer service as both a process and a goal. Will you testing be periodic or sampling ongoing? What’s your aim?

Mystery shopping of a service should involve asking questions that reflect the normal range of issues likely to be raised, not test for obscure knowledge unlikely to be required. Ideally about 80% of calls made would focus on mainstream work and only about 20% on complex issues for a more sophisticated service.

For example, we know at Well Done that after hours calls that we handle for Council clients concern a different mix of issues to overflow calls we might be sent during business hours. It follows that the after hours call centre agents and the normal business hours staff will each be stronger in the area of issues they normally handle, and the sets of questions directed to the call centre team and the dedicated staff should reflect this variance to be a fair measure of knowledge and performance.

Customer satisfaction
Often good customer service comes down to confidence and emotions. A simple set of questions with simple ratings 1-5 may give you a better overall picture.

For example –
  • How comfortable were you with the call?
  • How much effort was required by you?
  • Were your objectives met?

Getting responses from different demographic groups can also provide qualitative feedback. Retesting can provide a benchmark to track your service levels over time.

You also need to define what good, acceptable or bad service is in consistent terms. What does ‘good’ customer service look like in your view?

For example –
GOOD              Professional, knowledgeable, engaged
FAIR                 Got the job done, but it required prompting
POOR               Didn’t care, not helpful, seemed bored or hurried

Follow through
Positive feedback will help your staff or call centre team engage more with their work. You might link staff remuneration or promotion to KPIs or use ongoing training to keep engagement high.

With muddled customer service, a careful review of the procedures is indicated. What’s going wrong here?

With poor customer service, there may be underlying issues or a return to basics may be needed. Is the problem general or isolated?

Some Strategies
Focus on specifics of recent issues and how these could have been handled better rather than generalities that no one can identify with, and then follow through with feedback to the team as changes begin to show results.

Tell people exactly how and why they are doing a good job. Articulate and encourage pride in service standards throughout your organisation; culture is a powerful predictor of customer service standards.

At Well Done we have training programs in place that cover listening skills, handling difficult callers, effective telephone communication and handling complaints. Ongoing training improves both skill and morale in the workplace, and this will be reflected in your customer service standards.

Provide your team with the opportunity to make suggestions and ensure that they have the systems and equipment to do an excellent job. Provide channels for them to flag issues and encourage different work groups to work together to solve problems. Call centre services require complex coordination to work well; at Well Done Sales, Accounts, Client Services, Operations and IT regularly consult to resolve issues that arise or come up with solutions for clients that individually we may not have considered.

As scale makes personal involvement more difficult, larger organisations will often have formalised quality assurance programs in place. This may involve recording and assessing call samples against set criteria, or scheduling a set percentage of follow up calls to customers a week later to ask for feedback. It’s less personal than what is possible in a small business, but the principle is still the same: ask, consider and act to achieve and maintain customer service excellence.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Creating the WOW! Factor in Customer Service

What makes the difference between great customer service and annoying, or simply forgettable customer service experiences?

The National Local Government Customer Service Network are passionate customer service practitioners, and recently they invited Denise Meyerson, international expert and CEO of Management Consultancy International, to speak on this hot topic.

 ‘Top organisations doing well on customer service know that it’s all about emotions, especially in social media’ Denise Meyer (pictured) advised us before going into a number of fascinating case studies to illustrate her point.

One such was the example of Tony Hsieu, founder of successful online US shoe retailer Zappos, who defined his company’s mission simply as ‘Delivering Happiness’. In his view, culture is everything, and his recruitment strategy is to select people for their … happiness. Where the internal culture of the company align – in this case where mood, motivation, values and vision align with happiness – the results have been be reflected externally with reports of exceptional (WOW!) customer service.

The lesson is that a positive corporate culture is always associated with higher performance, including customer services. Great cultures like Zappos happen by design, not by accident, and organisational culture drives everything. Values are the blueprint. These are backed up by behaviours; how people live the values everyday.

For example, Disney’s mission is to be the most admired company in the world. They focus on cast excellence and visitor satisfaction, and together these bring financial results and repeat business. Engagement with the company vision is the major strategy Disney uses to overcome fatigue and boredom on the job. Being asked 50 times a day where the toilets are shouldn’t distract staff from the person making the request right in front of them; staff are trained to focus on their body language during their interactions with customers.  

The classic story of product passion is Apple and its claim on the pronoun ‘i’. With Apple, it’s all about you – how can we make you into a smarter computer user; how can we make your life easier with apps? Making people passionate about their products Apple brings the WOW factor right into the brand.

Overwhelmingly, the Denise Meyer’s message was that great customer service reaches you at an emotional level, and leaves you with a feeling of satisfaction. Perhaps they have used your name, if only to help them focus on you as a person, but someone has listened, taken you seriously, connected with you in some human way and tried to help.

As contact centre provider that charges for our agents’ time, I wondered whether this implied that we should be spending more time on our calls at Well Done? Opinion on the floor on this question was a definite NO and I could not fault the reasoning: if you can connect and be understood, the call will actually be quicker and more positive in tone – a classic win:win.

There’s a flipside, of course. Our memories are charged with emotions, so it is perhaps not so surprising that when we have a negative customer service experience, the sting of it stays with us longer.

In the latest American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, which surveyed thousands of people across 10 countries, Australians were singled out as among the most vocal complainers in the world (only Italians and Indians complained more). We tell on average of 23 people about bad service compared with only 10 of a good service experience, and here’s the rub – they probably won’t be telling you! An earlier American Express dining survey revealed that Australians are 50% more likely to complain to everyone else than directly to the supplier.

So it would appear that Customer Service is a double-edged sword. Good company culture underpins great customer service, and the repeat business and referrals that this can bring - and bad customer service will cost you in more ways than you may ever know.

For more information about Denise Meyerson and her training programs -