Preparing for Hurricane Season:
3 Important Customer Service Considerations
Hurricane season 2019 is at its mid-point, with several months still left to go. And, although the season is anticipated to be of average intensity, that can still spell major—and unpredictable—disruptions for businesses across the United States and elsewhere.
As reported by Time magazine, even though it’s predicted to be “near-normal,” this year’s hurricane season is also likely to entail up to 15 named storms. Among them are as many as four “major” hurricanes, meaning storms that could reach Category 5, the most severe designation.
And even two Category 5 hurricanes is no small matter. In 2018, two such storms wreaked a huge amount of destruction: The strongest hurricane to ever strike the Florida Panhandle, Hurricane Michael, caused $25 billion in damage in the U.S. (and much more internationally). On top of that, Hurricane Florence caused record levels of flooding in the Carolinas, and an almost-equivalent level of financial costs.
“The strongest hurricane to ever strike the Florida Panhandle, Hurricane Michael, caused $25 billion in damage in the U.S. ” Click To Tweet
The takeaway? Even in an average or “near-normal” hurricane season, the U.S. could experience another Florence and Michael, causing enormous disruption that lasts for weeks after the storm subsides. So, for businesses with any part of their operations—or customer base—in the South or Atlantic states, preparing for hurricane season is essential, no matter what year.
Why Are Customer Communications Important to Your Hurricane Season Preparations?
Here at the Working Solutions, we’ve emphasized time and again the importance of preparing for hurricane season for businesses of all types. These essential preparations include implementing a disaster recovery plan, backing up your data, securing your facility against physical harm, and many other considerations. (Get a full overview of our business hurricane preparedness tips here.)
But as Working Solutions vice president of Program Success April Wiita recently pointed out in a Contact Center World article, businesses preparing for hurricane season should also be ready for its week-longs aftermath, too. And this includes the important consideration that, even if your business is not affected by the storm, many of your customers may be.
Truly effective hurricane season preparedness means also considering and accommodating the difficulties your customers are likely to face in the days, weeks and months after the storm. Doing so can go a long way toward ensuring that you’re continuing to build customer satisfaction and loyalty during a difficult time.
With that in mind, here are three tips for ensuring that your customer communications are as prepared for hurricane season as all other aspects of your business.
Preparing for Hurricane Season: 3 Important Customer Service Considerations
1. Create an emergency plan for customer communications.
Maintaining customer communications should be a priority within any disaster recovery plan. If your business is directly affected by a hurricane, you’re likely to have your hands full during the aftermath. Just remember, customers who aren’t affected will expect business as usual. And the reverse is also true: If you’re not affected, but your customers are, you’re likely going to be out-of-step with one another.
The solution? Make sure you have emergency communications ready in advance, as well as a plan for how to deliver them in the case of widespread outages. Customers should know how to reach you in case of emergency, and you should be proactive in giving them a way to do so.
Pro tip: You can put this solution into action by having agents on standby who can make emergency calls on your behalf, as along with having an automated, offsite messaging system. In fact, running at least part of your customer communications strategy on an offsite/on-demand/virtual basis means you’ll be able to ensure your customer care is uninterrupted during times of crisis.
Take Action You can put this solution into action by having agents on standby who can make emergency calls on your behalf, as along with having an automated, offsite messaging system. In fact, running at least part of your customer communications strategy on an offsite/on-demand/virtual basis means you’ll be able to ensure your customer care is uninterrupted during times of crisis.
2. Double-check your data backup plan.
Save your customers undue frustration and avoid giving them reason to resent you: Double-check your data backup plan and do it now. Losing records of purchase history, communications preferences, payment info and other such data means not only starting from square one with these important personalization considerations, but also running the risk of communicating with them in a way that they’ve already told you they don’t like.
The solution? To really ensure that your backup plan is as good as it can possibly be, you’ll probably need to go beyond on-site backups—important as they are—to make sure all of your customer data is secured in an offsite, and preferably out-of-state, location.
Pro tip: Better yet, use the cloud. Partnering with a company that offers cloud-based data backups is the most reliable way to make sure your information is secure and readily accessible when you most need it.
3. Cultivate teamwork and friendliness within your culture.
Recovery from a hurricane or any other destructive natural disaster requires not just a comprehensive, regularly updated and fully tested business recovery plan, but also good old-fashioned teamwork. In addition, ensuring that customer communications during times of crisis are at maximum effectiveness means making sure your staff members are content and confident in their own roles, and can offer the compassion and friendliness that your customers need during times of crisis.
The solution? You’re much more likely to achieve this kind of teamwork and proactive effort from your staff if you’ve cultivated a company culture that’s positive and team-oriented, where your staff feels appreciated and engaged.
Pro tip: There’s a system for cultivating the kind of company culture that ensures this kind of quality. At Working Solutions, we emphasize ongoing education, team-building exercises and the opportunity to earn recognition for milestones and significant accomplishments. All of these and more can and should be integral to your customer service strategy, even if your workforce is virtual.
Need Help Preparing for Hurricane Season? Time to Call in the Experts.
Important as these steps are, they’re really just starting points. You’ll also want to consider other means for ensuring customer satisfaction during crisis times, such as giving your customers a grace period to accommodate financial and emotional distress and joining or donating to community-based recovery and rebuilding efforts.
And if you’d like to learn even more about how to prepare your customer service strategy—and your business in general—for hurricane season, we’re standing by to answer your questions.
Contact us here to schedule a complimentary consultation with a Working Solutions disaster recovery expert.Let's connect.