Minimize Damage to Call Center Operations in the Face of Natural Disaster

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the millions of American families impacted by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma over the last several weeks. We know that this is just the beginning of the recovery and restoration effort.

Whether we are preparing for more hurricanes to come or winter weather slowly approaching, safety is absolutely the top priority both for employees and customers in these situations.  An abundance of resources exist to support and reference in the face of a natural disaster.  See the CDC’s Hurricane Readiness Tips

This recent series of storms has made us even more aware of the fact that it can be hard to react and respond during a natural disaster; the more prepared you are, the less damage you must undo once it’s over.

So, as we recover and look ahead, what can you do to minimize the impact of a natural disaster on your business?

Have operational centers or provider partners in a wide variety of geographical locations.  Natural disasters can disrupt power, phones, internet and other communication tools for a long time. 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 season 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.

As well, GCS has the added benefit of off-shore locations in the event of a larger national disaster or emergency.

Enlist an Outsource Provider for 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 different generations of family to care for or transport to specific locations for appropriate care; communication can be spotty, resources limited, 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 much-needed customer support and provide the time or space for 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.

Utilize a Recording to Communicate Valuable Information.  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.

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; if you mobilize fast, you minimize the bottom line impact.

Keep Lines of Communication Open in Real-Time with Social Media.  When the power goes out, people will be turning to their smart phones, tablets and laptop PCs to stay in touch.  Leading up to a natural disaster or emergency, encourage all employees or customers to join, follow, or connect with your company on social media, so that they know what’s going on and how they can remain in touch during an emergency.

Contact centers like GCS have the power to turn social media into a positive response channel by monitoring email, chat and text, or providing critical moderation of online content in real-time.

Educate Everyone on Your Organization’s Disaster Preparedness Plan. Your organization should have specific and strategic plans and policies in place leading up to any natural disaster – no matter how much warning you do or don’t have. That plan or policy should include (but is not limited to): the clear and concise 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; they should know how to respond according to your company’s policy and procedure. Keep this plan updated with current locations, employee names, and contact information; review it with all employees and communicate its importance for short-term and long-term success.

A solid plan has the power to help you and your organization tackle anything that might come your way; and the more solid the plan, the more efficiently you will be able to get operations back in place faster, easier and safer.

Once it’s over, always reflect on what your company did right, what needs improvement, and what new plans or ideas you can implement the next time something strikes.

If there’s anything we do to support your business or organization in the aftermath of recent storms, please reach out.

We would be glad to discuss ways GCS could help with your contingency planning. Give us a call 1-844-324-5427.

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