In the event of a natural disaster, is your company ready? One often overlooked tool for disaster preparedness is a telephone answering service to help businesses in the wake of a disaster. This article will show why it is imperative that every business has a disaster plan in place that includes a telephone answering service to keep that communication flowing in the wake of a disaster.
Using an Emergency Answering Service During Natural Disasters
The repeated natural disasters that struck the United States and Puerto Rico, in 2017 forced businesses to reconsider the effectiveness of their disaster recovery plan. Ensuring business continuity during and after a disaster is paramount for all company sizes. Maintaining business continuity for your business requires enabling tools such as a telephone answering service.
In any disaster situation, vital lines of communication often falter. Even when businesses are prepared to handle the logistical and physical aspects of disaster recovery, no one can afford to lose contact with your clients and customers. This is where a business telephone answering service becomes indispensable.
What’s a Telephone Answering Service? Does It Work in an Emergency?
A telephone answering service for businesses provides services such as receptionist answering, which ensures that anyone who calls your business reaches a live person. This is especially important considering that voicemail abandonment rate is nearly 75 percent. Using a business telephone answering service, incoming calls are answered on behalf of your company according to a script you create, and agents will handle appointment-scheduling or inform callers of your status during a natural disaster.
Setting-up and enabling a telephone answering service is relatively fast, this way you can focus on other business needs as you deal with the aftermath of a disaster. Once your account is set up by providing the approved script and forwarding phone number, the live agents will begin answering your calls as directed, with a high level of professionalism and confidentiality.
Anserve offers professional telephone answering services to a wide array of industries such as law firms, doctors offices, medical facilities, hospice care, corporate and retail. This versatility guarantees proper verbiage spoken to callers. The operators then relay messages to you via email or text message. Depending on the services you have selected, they can also forward live calls, capture client information, collect ordering information, or dispatch employees.
How Much Does an Emergency Answering Service Cost Businesses Like Mine?
When a business considers the cost factor, it is important to remember to weigh it against the potential loss of business due to being unreachable during disaster recovery. How much business are you going to lose in ONE day of being down? How many labor hours are lost? What will this mean for your brand? Also, the need to analyze the cost to perform this function yourself is an important factor. Many businesses consider outsourcing as a “loss of control” when, in reality, outsourcing should be an extension of your offering, not a replacement. These answers will help you evaluate the real cost and what you will be willing to spend for an emergency answering service.
Anserve offers services that operate all-hours of a day, seven days a week, including holidays and weekends. When the average business hires an employee to answer phones, it’s typically only during standard hours of operation and would cost much more when you take into account the hiring process, insurance, required hardware and software, payroll variables, vacation and burnout. With a telephone answering service, your rates are all-encompassing. You are employing a service, not a person. Call services offer flexible plans based upon the call volume of your business.
Is an Emergency Answering Service Necessary for my Business?
Natural disasters seem to be on the rise. A single incident of hurricanes, flooding, fire, high winds, or human-made disasters such as utility outages could easily drain your sales pipeline. Businesses small and large, thrive on relationships with their customers, and when one side of a conversation goes silent, relationships can easily disappear. If your communication goes silent and you are suddenly unreachable after a disaster, you may lose customers and have to start over from scratch to rebuild the relationship. Making a preliminary plan ahead of time will save your business time, effort, and the amount of time needed to get back to operational speed. If you are interested in learning how to create your disaster avoidance and recovery plan to ensure business continuity, give Anserve a call to learn about emergency answering services. They are skilled at figuring out the best plan for all sizes and industries of business.
An Emergency Answering Service As Part of Your Disaster Preparedness Plan
Businesses have been hard hit by natural disasters in recent years. In the aftermath of floods, fires, hurricanes and other disasters, businesses must still be able to have incoming and outgoing communication with customers in order to get back on their feet financially and operationally.
Today, even local businesses have customers that are outside of their zip code. These more distant customers could be completely unaffected by a localized disaster that befalls the business and hampers its ability to provide customer service by phone. On the other hand, the business’s products or services may be in more demand or vitally important to its local customers just after a natural disaster. Now, the natural disaster has become a customer service crisis where the businesses’ customers will immediately look elsewhere for the services and products that were once supplied by the business in question, unless that business enlists an emergency answering service.
A quality telephone answering service can provide solutions that can be put in place before a disaster happens to maintain customer communications in a seamless fashion. The key lies in the service provider’s ability to route calls away from the disaster areas in order to maintain business continuity with the business’ customers.
This can mean a virtual answering service to provide an informed, friendly, and prompt live voice to answer questions, route calls, and even fulfill orders. In the case of service providers, the telephone answering service can provide emergency dispatch solutions. These and other types of businesses that must maintain contact with customers can take advantage of flexible message delivery via email, text or directly to designated cell phones.
While disaster preparedness plans have the safety of people as its primary goal, it must also have actionable contingency plans to safeguard businesses and their relationship with their customers. Businesses can create a protocol with staff contact numbers that is either situation or need dependent for their emergency answering services.
In addition, they can also create fully realized digital data sheets for services and products as well as access plans for placing and fulfilling orders remotely. In this way, businesses can ensure that their customers will be taken care of promptly and professionally regardless of their immediate ability to field customer calls, no matter what the circumstances activate the emergency answering service.
Disaster Preparedness and the benefits of using an Emergency Answering Service
Emergency preparedness is a vital part of many business and government continuity plans. Telephone answering services can play a vital role in keeping communications open during a natural disaster. For example, a government agency in Florida can use an answering service located somewhere else in the country to handle their calls if a hurricane hits. The government agency may be evacuated and the employees could be spread throughout the region, but the calls can still be answered because the telephone answering service is unaffected by the hurricane. The government agency can use the answering service as a tool to keep their employees and residents up to date on a variety of topics such as openings/closings, emergency shelter locations, etc.
Telephone answering services can also help a local business when a disaster on a smaller scale occurs like a fire or a flood. For example, if a medical office is destroyed by a fire, their answering service can still field patient and employee calls as call volume will certainly spike. Telephone answering services can play an important role in a business or government continuity plan on both a large and small scale.
An Emergency Answering Service Plan for Businesses in Wake of a Disaster
Some organizations, such as public utilities and medical facilities, do not have the luxury of off time in the event of a disaster. Although their central office may close for weekends and holidays, the primary work of the facility must continue. But what happens if there is a flood that keeps people from getting into the office? Where do people report for duty? This is where a telephone answering service for business is very important. Having a dedicated toll free number designated to allow people to call in and hear a recorded message indicating a temporary office or even assignment of duties can be really useful.
This type of service can also be a great way to keep the public informed of changes as well. In the case of a power outage, residents can call an 800 number and find out when power is expected to be returned. For medical facilities, people can call and find out the anticipated wait time for emergencies, if the facility has moved to a temporary location, and whether or not vaccines are available at the office locations. And all of this can be handled by a simple recording from the telephone answering service for business so that agents can handle more pressing calls.
An Emergency Answering Service Provides Helpful Information for Employees
Most telephone answering services for business can also set up assistance to help employees get their jobs done remotely. For instance, some software companies operate large offices with customer service representatives standing by to take calls and emails from their thousands of customers. But what happens if the office of the customer service department is damaged by a natural disaster? A telephone answering service for business can set up temporary voicemail boxes and also receive and redirect email messages. This could allow employees to work from home or another location in order to keep their customers served until operations are restored to normal.
One of the main sources of confusion and frustration that occurs during a major disaster is the lack of information available to the general public. With so many radio stations and social media outlets, it can be difficult to get a coordinated message out to everybody about temporary shelters and food services. Having one main message from an emergency answering service could help get the word out quickly about directions and locations for resources.
Facing a major disaster can be tough mentally, physically, and financially. Having the availability of a telephone answering service for your business can help companies overcome some obstacles in order to keep their customers served.
Being Prepared for Summer’s Disasters with an Emergency Answering Service
All across the country, spring and summer can be a time of great opportunity for business sales. Unfortunately, this time of year can also bring a higher rate of natural disasters. In order to maintain operations and customer communication during and after severe weather, prepared businesses rely on a telephone answering service with a disaster alert program.
Whether it is a retail location, service business, healthcare setting, or real estate business, disaster preparedness including an emergency answering service is a crucial part of keeping clients informed while keeping a business operating during and following adverse circumstances. With possibilities ranging from severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and floods, to wildfires and power outages caused by heavy summer electrical usage, businesses must have contingency plans for keeping the lines of communication open.
Businesses must have well developed emergency plans including a disaster alert program in place in the event of the worst-case scenario. By working with a leading telephone answering service like Anserve, businesses can still respond if their primary phone service is interrupted or the business is forced to temporarily close.
In addition, businesses can create specialized messages for their clients that provide specific instructions through the emergency answering service about their services and what to do during these events. This is a vital tool for everything from medical practices and service businesses to a wide variety of business types.
Property management firms responsible for everything from commercial to multi-tenant residential properties must have a way to provide operational information to tenants both during and after natural disasters like flooding, severe weather, or fires. Having a property management answering service that can immediately adapt to the needs of multiple properties for incoming calls from tenants can help to keep people calm and safe with instructions, while also providing an ability to handle call overflow.
For many parts of the country, the summer is the start of wildfire season. This brings the need to keep clients and customers informed about service contingency plans due to encroaching wildfires on commercial and residential districts in which they operate. Areas of the country that are located in flood plains also deal with unique disaster planning needs. Businesses that provide vital services to their clients ranging from electrical, plumbing, and general contracting to disaster mitigation and health services all need an emergency answering service to communicate with their clients in the event of such disasters.
The ability to have informed live agents who can keep callers calm while providing vital information on how the business can help in the moments and days after these disasters is a vital part of customer service that defines a business. The time for businesses to address these issues is before a disaster is even on the horizon so that when an event does happen, the emergency answering service plan can immediately be put into action.
For these businesses, this can be about much more than just protecting the bottom line. It is about protecting the lives and livelihoods of their customers and clients in direct and indirect ways.
Emergency Answering Services for Unpredictable Winter Weather
When your company can be affected by unpredictable winter weather, you need good emergency answering service in place to warn and update your employees and customers.
For weather alerts and cancellations, the right communication infrastructure is important for fast response. The lives of customers and employees depend on the capabilities of the operators and technology in place. Not everyone will reach your website or social media to see your, updated, information. Businesses, courts, military and municipal services, educational campuses, events, health care settings, oil companies, snow removal companies, and also organizations with multiple locations need emergency answering services in place.
Rather than spend months on training and set up in order to launch a new mass alert system, why not hire an emergency answering service to manage the call volume brought on by such emergencies? If your company has not invested in an emergency answering service, now is the time to prioritize your needs and shop for the most effective and economical solution.
In many cases, municipalities and emergency service providers can apply for grants that cover much of the cost of an emergency notification system for residents. For municipalities, the public needs to know that mass notification systems are in place to get alerts for critical safety hazards, road conditions and closures, missing persons, building or neighborhood evacuations, and weather information. This type of system can also be put in place to notify law enforcement about any issues within the area. Not only do emergency answering services help disperse information to the public right away, but the public can also call or email the service to give input and assistance during an emergency.
When a mass alert occurs, recipients will receive a message via the communication method they have selected. Recipients can also confirm that they have received the message and request notification updates.
How Medical Answering Services Can Affect Disaster Preparedness and Patient Health Outcomes
New Jersey is no stranger to man-made and natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, which had a devastating effect. Hospitals and health systems throughout the state as well as across the country must plan for such disasters when communication can be challenging due to loss of infrastructure. This can affect everything from difficulties in locating and informing medical staff and patient families to communication with outpatient services and physician practices. It is in this area where medical answering services can play another integral role in affecting patient health outcomes.
When communication infrastructure goes down, the hospital or healthcare enterprise’s focus on the patient is even more heightened. A medical answering service is needed to deal with the surge of incoming and outgoing calls during these times that would swamp the ability of existing staff, even if the communication infrastructure was intact. Families of patients are calling for updates on the status of loved ones while outpatient service centers and associated physician practices are calling to reschedule or verify in-hospital procedures among many others.
As for outgoing communication, the hospital staff must locate and contact every staff member that is either on-call or is scheduled to be at the facility to ensure that they are aware of disaster plan procedures. In addition, the normal schedule of checking in with recent discharges regarding status and outpatient healthcare procedures and medication procedures are crucial.
A medical answering service is not only a crucial resource during normal operations; they become indispensable during a disaster. By outsourcing a significant percentage of routine communications as part of normal operations, hospitals, staff, and outpatient service personnel can ensure that checking in on outpatient health status and appointment calls can be handled without overburdening an already taxed staff. In addition to the communication efficiency of such a system, health systems can realize savings over the costs of dedicated staff or automation systems to handle these and other communication protocols.
Health systems that have already established ongoing service relationships with Anserve’s medical answering service have already laid the groundwork for developing a comprehensive disaster preparedness communication plan. This is because the medical answering service is already familiar with standardized protocols and scripts for patient communication (both incoming and outgoing calls). They are also familiar with staff location protocols whether they are by pager, cell phone, email or other means. It is these protocols that form the basis of a communication disaster plan.
With HIPAA privacy considerations an ongoing mandate in all communications for healthcare enterprises, it is imperative that the hospital choose medical answering services that can fulfill these legal requirements. In addition, they must be able to provide the specialized understanding that it takes to fulfill healthcare communication. Consequently, disaster planning only enhances the need to have a medical answering service that can meet these requirements and that have the proven track record in healthcare to seamlessly integrate with the needs of the hospital.
Providing such a model as part of a disaster preparedness plan that includes an emergency answering service ensures that patients and staff are engaged and managed throughout the entire care continuum and throughout the community that the healthcare enterprise serves. Everything from patient status for family members, appointment scheduling, follow-up, education, and retention to staff location and communication can be efficiently handled during a disaster or otherwise by skilled medical answering services. This broad scope makes it clear as to what type of effect this can have on patient health outcomes during the best of circumstances as well as some of the worst as in times of natural or man-made disasters where communication is critical.
Rob represents the second generation of the Ward family at Anserve. As President of Anserve, Rob oversees all current operations cementing Anserve’s position as the largest answering service in New Jersey. Read more about Rob Ward on our Company page.