Customer call centers are sometimes thought of as places that are all business. They need strong and reliable disaster response mechanisms in place in order to be effective.
They can include a general air of professionalism that’s provided by well-trained, friendly agents who have plenty of knowledge about several different industries and services.
Call Center employees can help people in multiple situations, whether it’s answering basic questions, assisting with confusing procedures or resolving a situation that’s making them unhappy.
But that’s not all! Customer service centers can also have another important and useful function: to assist people during disasters.
The professionalism and calmness of good call center agents can be an asset during a natural disaster when they are trying to point people in the right direction for critical services or just answer questions about the current situation.
Disasters, whether natural or man-made, are sometimes going to be un-avoidable, so the ability to get the word out to people who need it is crucial. Disaster response call center agents may not offer direct hands-on relief like emergency providers, but they can have vital roles in sharing critical details to help people learn, survive and recover from the unexpected.
The following are a list of 7 ways disaster responses is critical.
1. The flu
Influenza is always there, but when it reaches a pandemic stage, information about where to get help, such as a community immunization clinics or how to find a doctor is crucial. In some cases, there can be a limited supply of vaccines or service problems – if a whole town gets the flu, it can affect activities like schools, banking or commerce. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control advocates the use of call centers during severe flu situations as a way to educate the community, help support agencies collaborate, and provide a sense of calmness. New York City utilized call centers during the H1N1 flu outbreak in 2009, and they helped direct people to treatment sites and offer access to nurses via telephone.
2. Data breaches
Learning that one’s identity or financial information has been hacked is only the beginning of a complex process involving law enforcement, merchants, banks, and credit reporting bureaus. Businesses need to contact customers and clients who may have been victimized and also take steps to prevent further breaches. A call center can be handy for answering “what now?” questions. While specific information about victims and what was taken may not be known until a complete investigation takes place, a disaster response call center can explain the process. The University of Central Florida recently used a call center in response to a breach of personal data of about 63,000 current and former students and staff.
3. Anonymous Threat Reports
No matter what you see on TV, law enforcement can’t be everywhere. As much as they would like to listen to every concerned citizen,
sometimes they must focus on more critical investigations or serious crimes. Some communities have set up call centers to take tips or report anonymous threats, and sometimes callers are rewarded for their info. Information can be routed to appropriate investigators if needed, but this provides a buffer so that not all calls are being directed to the cops. For instance, Verizon has an Unlawful Call Center that people can utilize to report threats. By utilizing this type of call center, it allows 911 operators focus on emergencies.
4. Product recalls
Though some product recalls let you do so “at your convenience,” others have more urgency. For instance, don’t drive that car with the wheels that fall off or don’t take the tainted medicine that harms instead of helps. A call center can make sure affected people have the information about how and where to go to exchange their productinstead of overwhelming the official company with the same questions over and over. In the Netherlands, candy maker Mars wanted to get the word out to shoppers and to stores about possible plastic contamination in candy bars. A call center was established to make sure stores follow correct information about removing 4 million bars quickly.
5. Overflow call center
Your regular call center team may be great at their regular duties, but this efficiency may drop if the call volume jumps significantly due to emergencies. Rather than demanding more from your already solid team, you could partner with a call center to assist you with your overflow calls. They may not have the depth of knowledge as your internal employees, but they could be trained on basic details of the current situation and common questions that could be asked and answered. Extra support also has the advantage of not making people wait on hold long or sending them to voice mail. A Veteran’s Administration suicide help call center in Buffalo, N.Y., was recently criticized for not having an overflow system, so some calls went to voice mail. What makes matters worse is the voice mails were never listened to.
6. Power outages
During a disaster, the last thing utility employees need is another call from someone asking when their power is going to be restored. At the same time, the company is probably interested in what areas have power and which ones still need help. A call center can provide an opportunity for the public to receive instructions about an outage, and they can help free up the power companies to focus on restoring power. In the case of recent storms in Alabama, residents were asked to call if they still didn’t have power, which offered guidance for their local utility company.
7. Natural disaster
Tornado heading your way? Flooding in the forecast? Then a call center can be a useful place to educate the community, especially if it’s physically far away from the damage. It can become a prime place to inform residents or even the media about what’s happening. In the recent storm in Appomattox, Va., an official HelpLine was established to provide answers about everything from sanitation to emergency shelter locations.
Though it’s impossible to predict when or where a disaster will hit, the best that businesses and entire communities can do is prepare for something. This preparation should include the creation of a disaster response call center, where staff can calmly provide useful answers plus instill a sense of confidence to those who are affected.