As I write this, Hurricane Irene is churning its way up the East Coast. It’s hard to know whether it’s going to be a “historic storm” or just a big mess. Either way, it raises some questions about how you would handle a similar storm in your Customer Service business.
Storm Forecasts are Dire Because Forecasters Want you to take Action to Save Life and Property
Hurricane forecasting provides some valuable early warning information, along with a checklist of how to prepare, and a strategy for dealing with unforeseen situations. Your crisis plan for a Customer Service storm should be similar, including the following:
- What to do if you get a whole lot of requests at one time – it’s likely when you describe a problem as “a Hurricane” then it’s something that simply overwhelms your existing capacity. Whether you broadcast out simple information on multiple channels (like the New York MTA sharing information through Twitter and other channels.) or whether you simply give customers an easy way to understand what you can and can’t do during a “storm”, sharing information beforehand is a big win.
- How to triage unfamiliar and unforeseen consequences – the US Military teaches a doctrine called “commander’s intent” which states the objectives to be completed and the conditions to be created that will demonstrate mission success. You should be able to explain in simple terms (but no simpler) the parts of your business and your customer service mission that must persist even in the face of overwhelming demand or unusual circumstances.
- How to maintain your existing standards, and exceed them in a time of great strain – by the way, none of this is easy, which is why anyone would describe either the actual Hurricane Irene or an event that feels similar in your business. Maintaining those standards under duress is a mark of amazing service.