The coronavirus situation is reminding us that the world is completely interconnected. The global coronavirus pandemic is affecting our families, our businesses, and our way of life. During this time, we’re reminded that every business, large or small, needs a plan to meet any disruption with confidence.
Over the past week, our staff has been speaking to many small businesses whose teams are feeling overwhelmed by inbound calls dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies are short staffed or working remotely for the first time, and the volume of calls companies are getting is not going down. Customers are calling with questions and business staff is not equipped to handle the calls alone. At SAS, we have our own protocols to make sure your business is able to stay open and receive calls. If you’re using an answering service or virtual receptionist service as part of your crisis communication plan, we’re here to help.
Create your plan
A good outsourcing plan involves the following:
- What: What types of calls will the answering service receive?
- Who: When a message is received, who needs to be notified? Will the message go to an individual or a group? Based on the types of calls you feel the service will be receiving, should different people or departments be notified about different types of calls?
- How: How will your staff get notified? Will they receive an email? A text message? Would you prefer calls be transferred to your staff?
- When: Should your crisis communication plan be on paper until a crisis hits or should you look for an answering service now as a precaution? Even if you don’t contract with an answering service right away, research and know who can get you setup quickly in the event of an emergency.
- Where: If a disaster should happen, where will your business operate from? What should the receptionist tell callers?
Align your communication
Communication is essential during any crisis. For your plan to be effective, you’ll need clear communication channels for your customers, employees, and even vendors. To make sure the answering service is representing you during a crisis, we recommend the following:
- Designate someone in your company to control the setup of the answering service and have that staff member be the main point of contact from the answering service in case they have questions about protocol or changes. This way, there is a continuity of setup.
- Depending on what method you are using to transmit messages (email, text, transfers, etc.), make sure you’ve setup forwarders, distribution groups, or ring to groups on your end through your own software.
- If you’ve already activated an answering service, run through mock emergency scenarios at least every quarter to make sure the systems are still working on the answering service side, and to verify you’ve set up your distribution channels correctly on your end.
- Don’t forget to update the plan to align with changes in your staff
After a crisis
After your business has returned to normal operations, be sure to touch base with your staff to evaluate how your crisis communication plan worked and what can be improved.
No matter the disruption, your business is never in it alone. Answering services and virtual receptionist services like SAS are always available for your business.