Solutions for Winter Weather’s Effects on Your Business

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Call Centers Can Help During Winter Emergencies

Call Centers Can Help During Winter Emergencies

 

Who could forget the winter of 2014? The snow was piled high, and everyone hid to escape the brutal winds. From consumers to businesses, everyone encounters some form of financial loss during the wintertime. In fact, one survey estimated that the 2014 winter had cost the economy nearly $50 billion in lost productivity and 76,000 jobs.

From small businesses to major corporations, winter weather affects companies of all sizes. With the 2015 winter season just ramping up, businesses need to be prepared for what Mother Nature may bring. Snow, ice, and downed power lines down cause employees to call out, deliveries to be delayed or canceled, and offices to close.

However, there are some things that you can do to keep your business up and running. Here are a few tips to not let this winter season leave your company out in the cold:

1)    SBA Loans: The U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) often provides financial assistance to small businesses who suffer from substantial economic loss due to the weather. In fact, last February they provided just that to many companies throughout the US through their Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. The SBA can provide up to $1.5 million in disaster assistance to a business if that business is unable to get credit elsewhere.

2)    Remote Computer Access: Are your employees setup with remote access to their files and email? Remote computer access can be a cost-effective and efficient tool when driving into the office is too risky. For those concerned about security, consider Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). VPNs encrypt files on your computer and any data being exchanged over the internet to protect it from unauthorized access.

3)    Call Center Providers: Call centers can be an integral part of your company’s disaster plan. The best call centers have backup power supplies so that even if electricity is out in their area, they are still active and can receive calls. Additionally, many call centers have multiple sites. So even if your call center location is in the storm’s path, they can failsafe or pass calls to another site in the network that is out of harm’s way. Not sure what call centers can provide you? Consider these options:

a.    Answering Services: Call centers provide telephone answering services, answering your phones and taking messages from your customers when you can’t. In fact, some call centers offer quick setup and can start handling your calls in as little as 24 hours. Other centers can offer retainer services. For a small monthly fee, you can have the comfort of knowing your businesses’ incoming calls can be switched over in a matter of a few hours to agents already trained on your account.

b.    Hotlines: One of the easiest, low-cost solutions a call center can provide is an emergency hotline for both your staff and customers. The hotline can be updated very quickly, and provide guidance as to office closings and how to reach someone if necessary. Many call centers can text-enable hotlines too, providing important information by cell phone.

c.    Emergency Notifications: Call centers can also offer outbound services, calling out to customers and staff to share vital information about your business during the winter season. And, like hotlines, these notifications can be sent via text as well.

d.    Follow Me Services: If your staff is still working during the winter storm, but from a remote location, call centers often provide “follow me” services. This service is essentially a routing system for incoming calls that will attempt to reach someone at all of their lines – home, office or cell. This is ideal for remote staff that is expecting important phone calls but can’t make it into the office when the snow and ice are causing havoc on the roads.

So although the winter can be a serious thorn in your side, rest assured your office can remain active and informed. Above are just a few options for how you can prepared for winter weather disasters.

The Role of Call Centers in Crisis Situations

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A couple of years ago, I (Gary Pudles) collaborated with Richard Levick of Levick Strategic Communications on an article entitled “When Bad Things Happen to Good Companies.” We explored how organizations of different kinds can prepare themselves for those unexpected occurrences that have, in the past, damaged reputations, careers and entire companies.

As we all know, numerous product recalls, natural disasters and other potentially damaging events have occurred since that article was written. Now more than ever, call centers have been tasked, in various ways, to assist companies when problems arise.

Call centers have been widely known for many years as an effective avenue for communicating with clients and the public. However, there are many inbound services call centers can offer when unfortunate events occur, including:

• Third-party, whistleblower hotlines. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, for example, requires all publicly-held firms to have whistleblower hotlines to catch potential securities law violations. These hotlines are frequently handled by call centers.

• Many companies set up disaster response and emergency call centers in advance so they have a defined process in the event of an emergency. They can pre-arrange a standard but easily modifiable script, toll-free numbers, and an activation program that will allow a company to handle any emergency with decisiveness. Such resources ensure the capacity and technology needed to deal with emergencies in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

• Product recalls always cut into a company’s bottom line, but loss of reputation can be even more damaging. Part of a company’s public relations strategy should be having the pieces in place to quickly and efficiently set up hotlines for questions regarding a recall or for further instructions. Call centers play a big part in restoring consumers’ faith in a company.

To spot potential crises before they develop is extremely difficult to accomplish; however, having a good plan in place to respond and provide information is critical to the long-term sustainability of an organization.