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.