What do you do when a call centre fails? More importantly, what do customers do when a call centre fails?

I was trying to contact my bank’s call centre the other day. I needed to get a redemption figure for a very small mortgage and time was an important factor. I couldn’t use the online system because I had a specific question that wasn’t addressed by the FAQs section.

I kept getting lost in the call centre’s voicemail system. When I pressed the options to get down the various depths of the call centre’s Krypton Factor-like puzzle I would eventually run out of automated messages and the phone would ring out and then automatically cut out. At least that part of the automation was working.

I phoned a few hours later and explained that earlier in the day I’d gotten lost in the voicemail system a few times. The lady informed me that their systems had gone down for 2 hours.

What do the staff do when their systems grind to a halt? What do their customers do? In both cases it’s probably nothing. As I write this post the entire country is supposed to be indoors as a major storm passes over. The aggregated loss of our personal and commercial productivity on this scale is immense, but we need to factor it in when we do our macro calculations.

To a lesser scale we need to do that for periods of downtime like when call centres fail. Whether we feel as customers that it’s acceptable is another question.