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Wednesday, 28 June 2017 08:04

In an Emergency, Can You Alert the Right People Right Away?


Suppose something suddenly happened that would affect a lot of your customers, employees or both—say, a hurricane, a major network outage, a hazardous spill or a derailment. How quickly could you tell all of them how you’re handling the situation?

It’s how well and quickly you respond to a major incident that directly affects your brand and bottom line. For starters, customers who feel as if they were left wondering and waiting are now more receptive to competitors claiming they can do better. Disgruntled customers also will complain on social media, which could mean you’ll have to spend even more on marketing and promos to overcome a sullied reputation. Some customers also may complain to regulators and lawmakers, bringing their scrutiny and the worst-case scenario of a new law nicknamed after your business.

Simply put: Incident communications isn’t incidental. In fact, incident communications should be a top priority even for organizations that aren’t businesses, such as schools and public transportation agencies, as well as those with no competitors, such as an electric utility.

Act First and Fast
Your incident communications strategy should be built around the concept of proactive outreach. For example, don’t assume or expect customers to remember your website URL or phone number, or to have the patience to search for them. And, even if they do, the incident probably already has them frazzled, making them unwilling or unable to use those channels. Some will, but that comes with its own set of drawbacks, such as having enough staff and phone capacity to field a flood of calls. A busy signal, or a long wait to reach an agent, add to their frustration – and the likelihood that they’ll churn or complain on social media.

A key incident communications strategy that many organizations are following involves the deployment of automated notification. For instance, given that utility outages can wreak havoc on customer satisfaction and call center operations, one of the nation’s largest utilities adopted a solution designed to automate its communication processes during unplanned, critical outages. As a result, the utility was able to reduce its notification time from one hour to just 15 minutes, reaching customers with essential information more quickly, while reducing inbound call volume to its call center during outages and reducing associated costs.

A leading investment management firm needed fast, reliable, and cost-effective emergency communications when its existing manual call trees and broadcast voicemail methods were unable to deliver timely notifications or reporting capabilities to document employee status during the 9/11 crisis. By using automated notification, the company is now able to use immediate, reliable communications to reach its more than 6,000 associates located throughout three continents. Further, given the global nature of its workforce, the investment management firm chose to deploy a solution that offers multi-channel capabilities to ensure employees can be reached to be given the organization’s emergency communications in the most effective way – such as via phone, text, or email – regardless of their time of day, and within minutes rather than hours.

Automated notification enables organizations to push out information to thousands of patients, parents, citizens, employees, customers, and others all simultaneously across a wide range of channels.

For example, a school district could have employees and parents provide their preferred means of receiving alerts, such as their mobile number (voice and/or text message), landline number or email address. The district then could push notifications to all of those people, such as when a blizzard closes all schools, or to just certain people when a malfunctioning furnace closes just one building.

The district also could use automated notification to send alerts to other systems, such as its buildings’ digital signage and public address loudspeakers. That way, people who haven’t registered or updated their contact preferences, or those whose mobile phones are turned down or off, are less likely to miss an alert. This multichannel approach also helps reach more people during major incidents, such as during or after a hurricane, when the area’s mobile networks might be overloaded or down.

Storms, accidents, outages, and other incidents are a matter of when, not if. Being prepared is critical for maximizing safety, productivity, brand, customer satisfaction and more. Are you ready?

Lorentzen TonyTony Lorentzen is the vice president and general manager of enterprise voice and security at Nuance Communications. Lorentzen collaborates with cross functional teams across engineering, services, marketing, and finance to launch Nuance's latest innovations into the market, including incident communications solutions.