Disruptive events can occur when you least expect them to. It’s not only about finding a ten-dollar bill on the sidewalk or getting stuck with your car on the side of the road. For businesses, the unforeseen can mean halting operations for days, or worse, put you out of work for weeks. This can have a direct affect on your customers - forcing them to look for other solutions and leave for good. For everything from fire drills to snow days to internet connection issues, companies need to be prepared with solutions, fast.
The good news is, we live in a world where messages can be delivered in an instant. Readily available tools, such as a laptop and supported help desk software, can be used to assist customers whenever and wherever you are. With the right protocols, clear communication and back-up, here are a few real-life examples and tips on how to respond and recover quickly from an unexpected event.
Evaluate the risks
No matter what kind of business you’re running, be it drop-shipping or a website builder platform, planning for the “what if” moments is critical. In legal terms, these ‘Acts of God,’ also called ‘Force Majeure’ include natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and fires - many of which are beyond our control. But it’s not only nature that has a funny way of unexpectedly crashing into our lives. Risks can be financial, such as inadequate cash flow or PR scandals. These alone can have a devastating impact on the well-being of your customers and company.
For example, in 2011, Thailand experienced extreme flooding during its monsoon season. As a result, big name companies such as Toyota and Canon suspended production, reduced operating profits and experienced a decrease in sales. Therefore, it is crucial to think about the consequences before they even happen. Bottom line: You may not be able to prevent it, but you can prepare for it.
To identify the possible hazards, the first step is to carry out a risk assessment of your business. This process will help you to identify any possible threats, the effects and what protocols to take to minimize any danger in the future. When you recognize risks based on levels (e.g. low, medium, high) you’ll have a better idea of how to tackle them head on. It’s recommended to conduct this type of assessment on an annual basis, no matter what size or type of company you run. This will ensure overall success and prevent any unforeseen surprises for your business and customers.
The illustration below is a decision matrix to use for categorizing risks based on severity (minor to major) and frequency (common or uncommon). For instance:
Major severity and rare frequency: A natural disaster (e.g. earthquake, hurricane, fire)
Minor severity and common frequency: Technical issues (e.g. internet outage, water leaks)
This simple diagram should give you a general idea of how specific risks can impact your business, and the probability of them happening.
In parallel to creating your risk assessment matrix, ask essential questions that will help you recover by allowing you to structure your scattered thoughts in an orderly fashion. Here are a few questions to get you started:
What needs to be done to get your business up and running?
How long will it take for your business to be back?
Has your business reputation been affected?
Can your team work remotely? If not, is there a safe space you can work from?
Was any property (computers, documents) damaged by this event? Is your data backed up?
Create an informative and detailed plan for your employees
Based on your risk assessment, you’ll derive possible hazards that could have a significant impact. From here, the next step is to create a business emergency plan with clear, detailed instructions for every possible situation. Afterward, swiftly align your employees with the policies they are expected to follow as a result of each of these unexpected events.
For example, helping your employees to understand something as crucial as the exit routes of your office building in case of a fire can save lives. Even if your office is spick and span and had no past issues with one, you’d be surprised by how frequent fires can occur. In fact, one example of just how common these unexpected events take place was reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). They stated that there were 3,340 U.S. office property fires over a five year period, or around 55 per month.
In other cases, mother nature can prevent your entire workforce from coming into work - A place they spend a majority of their time, have their everyday routines and access to the tools they need. A firsthand account of exactly this occurred at the end of 2018 at our Wix San Francisco site. A toxic smog swept over the state of California due to destructive wildfires. A majority of our customer support specialists remained at home - leaving our valuable clients hanging for answers.
Aneesah, a product support expert recounts her experience:
“That was a bad month. We had two fires close to the office so the air was marked as unsafe. Thankfully, most companies allowed people to work from home. It felt like you were in a wood oven for days, and your clothes smelled for weeks.”
To recover, the department immediately responded to all employees via messaging services to stay at home or find a safe place to reside until the smoke cleared up. Support specialists were able to work remotely and assist users directly from their personal computers using an all-in-one help desk software.
Not one business emergency plan will look the same. Depending on the circumstances, you’ll need to write one for every possible scenario. For example, in case of a fire, you’ll include escape routes, shelters, meeting areas, etc. For cases where staff are requested to work remotely due to unsafe weather, a plan listing the steps is required. These can include an office point of contact (POC), local numbers for police and fire department and online attendance software to make sure employees are safe and sound.
Inform your customers
Similar to known issue articles you send your customers when there’s an on-going product bug or problem (e.g. unable to upload an image, unresponsive button) the same can be said about the unexpected occurrences. Your customers are the heart of your business. So brushing major and minor events under the carpet could in fact result in losing your valuable clients.
Informing your customers of any disaster that directly affects their needs assures them you are trustworthy and transparent. It’s vital to also include details about how long things will be out of order and when they are expected to be resolved.
Whether you’re a B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-consumer) company, the way you communicate these details to your customers will differ. For example, a B2B company may directly call clients or send an email, whereas a B2C business may reach out to clients on social media or via a help desk software. This gesture will go a long way in building and maintaining customer loyalty in the long run.
At a moment’s notice, your entire business can be turned upside down, derailing everything you’ve worked tirelessly for. With these steps, you, your employees and your business will be better prepared and able to minimize downtime - allowing you to get back to what you love.
Planning for the unexpected? Stay on top of customer needs and wants with the best help desk software!