How to Prepare Your Business Phone Lines for Emergencies
Has your business ever experienced a service interruption or have you ever been forced to close due to an inability to communicate with your customers? Natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, snowstorms, floods or tornadoes can leave an unprepared business owner in a serious bind.
It’s estimated that a small business owner will lose, on average, $3,000 a day due to closing after a major storm or emergency disaster. Since our emergency answering service has had many experiences in helping our customers stay open during disasters, we thought we’d share some helpful tips.
Read on to learn how to prepare your business phone lines for emergencies so that you’re continuously available for your customers in their time of need.
Helpful Tips From Our Emergency Answering Service:
Government Program: The Ready Campaign
Launched in February 2003, “Ready is a national public service advertising (PSA) campaign designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural and man-made disasters.”
The government PSA website suggests writing a plan to address the following issues that businesses are faced with during a natural or man-made emergency:
- • Resource Management
- • Emergency Response
- • Crisis Communications
- • Information Technology
- • Employee Assistance
Depending on your industry, you’re going to need to ask yourself what resources your business will need in order to stay open. Specifically, when a customer calls into your business during or after the disaster, who do you need on-site to assist that caller?
Can you run a customer service or emergency service unit with one employee providing information to your callers? Will you need a dispatcher to send out service technicians to assist your customers? Will you need your entire staff answering hundreds of calls from customers wondering what they need to do next?
After deciding on the most basic human resources you’ll need to stay in operation, you can then:
- • Invite specific employees to be part of your on-call customer service emergency unit.
- • Have walk-throughs to ensure that you are offering safe facilities to conduct business.
- • Gather food, water and safety kits for your employees that will be working on-site.
Having a live answering service handling your emergency calls can easily cut out a lot of the on-site resources you’ll need. With some businesses, you can even opt to outsource your entire customer service emergency unit.
If your business is expected to have high call volumes with people needing assistance during or after a disaster, you’ll need to construct a plan. Companies that offer specific disaster relief services are likely to already have an emergency response plan in place.
What you have to focus on when writing your company’s emergency response plan is:
- • Protecting your disaster relief team by giving them the proper tools and equipment to get the job done safely.
- • Detailed evacuation plans, lockdown protocols and periodic check in requirements for your on-site staff to follow.
- • A reliable resource that will provide up to date and accurate information for your dispatchers and technicians to utilize.
Never assume that you can prepare this emergency response plan during or after the disaster occurred. You never know when your customers will need you.
Keeping your business’s communications open, available and immediate is vital during an emergency situation or natural disaster. Your business reputation can take a beating if your customers fail to reach you for hours, or even days, after the disaster. They need to know that you are open for business and will promptly give them the information, service or product they need.
You need to be prepared to answer a variety of incoming calls from customers, employees, suppliers and even your corporate or managing office.
Example questions you can expect to field are:
- • Customers: Are you open? Can you come now? Can I reschedule my appointment?
- • Employees: Should I come into work today? Who is the supervisor on duty? Can I help?
- • Suppliers: Are you open? When should I reschedule my delivery for?
- • Corporate Office: How bad is the damage? What happened? What is our response?
Gather your managerial staff and start brainstorming on questions and issues that will arise during and after an emergency situation. The more organized you are now, the more smoothly your business will run later.
Voice over Internet Protocol (Voice over IP, VoIP and IP telephony), “Is a methodology and group of technologies for the delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol (IP) networks, such as the Internet.” In plain terms, VoIP is a phone service provided over the internet.
Businesses choose VoIP for their telecommunications need because of its ease, efficiency and redundant capabilities. Your VoIP system can be onsite (where you store the equipment and hardware at your offices), or it can be cloud-based (where you outsource to a provider that stores and maintains the equipment and hardware offsite).
Call your VoIP provider and speak with your sales rep about your account’s emergency and backup/recovery solutions. Set up or confirm your company’s power outage procedures. You can customize your account so that in the event of a power outage, your business lines can be forwarded to a designated number.
This is when an emergency answering service can really come in handy. We have all of these procedures and safeguards in place for all of our customers. We have backup equipment for our backup equipment and in 30 years of business, we have never experienced service disruption.
Your employees are going to look to you to keep the business running organized during the emergency situation. Keeping up-to-date information in your systems will reduce the risk of errors and confusion down the line.
Have your staff be diligent in providing current contact information. You want cell phone numbers, home addresses and email addresses. Also, be sure that each team member provides an in case of emergency contact person.
Lastly, make call lists available to your entire team with everyone’s contact information listed. Designate who will be the supervisor on-call during emergencies and their backup.
Take lessons from your childhood fire drills and once you have your plan, staff and equipment in place, run a drill.
In order to keep calm, your on-site emergency team needs to know how to:
- • Immediately jump into their assigned role in the event of a disaster;
- • Get the most up-to-date information from management and local authorities;
- • Provide calm and reassuring customer service to your callers;
- • If applicable, dispatch and field service calls promptly and accurately.
Telecommunications Disaster Solutions From Our Emergency Answering Service
If you’d rather leave your business communications in the hands of experts, we’ve got you covered. Our emergency answering servicehas the proud honor of never having service interruption effect our clients’ lines in the 30 years we’ve been in business.
Give us a call at 1-800-785-6161 to speak with our account specialist about how we can help you prepare your business for emergencies and natural disasters.