Keeping Customer Service Available During Natural Disasters

Minimize damage to your call center operations in the face of disaster

With Hurricane Sandy on everyone’s mind we would like to take a moment to provide some helpful information on disaster preparation from a contact center standpoint.

Safety is everyone’s first concern, both for employees and customers, and an abundance of resources exist to reference in the face of a natural disaster.  See the CDC’s Hurricane Readiness Tips

But what can you do to minimize the impact of a natural disaster on your business?

Here are a couple of suggestions.

  1. Have operational centers in a wide variety of geographical locations.  Clearly this is difficult to do in a short time frame or if you are a single location operation. Still, you may be able to quickly outsource some of your work and in the long-term, you can certainly contract for contingency capacity with other contact center service providers during a disaster.  For example, one of our northeastern clients has exercised a previous agreement with us to shift some of their in-house work to one of our western centers during the Hurricane window. Because plans were in place, this was done quickly and without disruption for their customers. This will ensure our clients can deliver quality customer service no matter what the storm’s outcome is in their region.Just having a small percentage of seats available can be a real benefit for the customers and the company. Natural disasters can disrupt power, phones, internet and other communication tools for a long time.You can work with outsource providers like us, or maybe even find geographically diverse friendly competitors to work out an agreement. GCS has the added benefit of off-shore locations in the event of a larger national disaster or emergency.
  2. Additional Support and Overflow.  Even if you do not have to close an entire center it is often difficult to maintain a full staff during a natural disaster. Employees have families to care for, communication can be spotty and transportation dangerous. Some critical organizations will experience a much higher contact volume during disasters. Having an outsource provider handle overflow or non-critical issues can provide needed customer support and free your key staff to tackle the bigger challenges. Look for a provider to handle overflow calls so you don’t miss an opportunity to continue operation or satisfy a customer.
  3. Use a recording, IVR or rerouted calls.  You may have to rely on a recording to communicate valuable information to customers and employees alike. This is a great way to make sure everyone is informed and up-to-date about the latest changes for the site and does not require someone to man the phones. Likewise an outsource provider can be contracted to retrieve and handle messages, refer customers and communicate with employees.
  4. Mobilize Fast.  In any emergency, down time will impact your bottom line. A professional and unexpectedly solid response in a crisis can win and keep customers far after the event. This is one of the huge benefits to being prepared ahead of time with an emergency plan and working with a flexible company.  If you mobilize fast, you minimize the bottom-line impact.
  5. Communicate via social media.  When the power goes out, people will be turning to their smart phones, tablets and laptop PCs to stay in touch more than ever.  Let employees and customers know what’s going on and how they can remain in touch during an emergency. Contact centers like GCS can turn the social channel into a positive response channel by monitoring email, chat and text, or providing critical moderation of on-line content.
  6. Be sure everyone is aware of a disaster preparedness plan. Your organization should have plans and policies in place to approach a natural disaster: the steps before, during and after it occurs. All members of management should know what their role is if something were to happen in their local area and they should know how to respond according to your company’s policy and procedure. Be sure to keep this plan updated, review it with all employees and to always communicate its importance.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to respond during a natural disaster but the more prepared you are, the less damage you must undo once it’s over. If you have a solid plan in place to tackle what may come, you can get operations back in place faster, easier and safer.

And once it’s over, always reflect on what your company did right, the tasks that need improvement and the new plans/ideas you can implement the next time something strikes.

We would be glad to discuss ways GCS could help with your contingency planning. Give us a call 704.624.9621 ext 1




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