Natural disasters are bad for business. Fires and floods don’t care about your business’s sales or other priorities. But here’s the key – your customers won’t care about your sagging sales either when they are inconvenienced by your prolonged closure. If patients can’t get relief from their nagging pain or clients are unable to have important legal documents signed in a timely manner, they’ll go elsewhere. Sometimes for good.
Planning to keep your business running during an emergency is not fun work, but is crucial for survival. Supporting yourself has the added bonus of building trust with your customers too. Here are three quick ways you can generate goodwill while planning for the inevitable.
1. Create your list.
Write down all the possible scenarios that could threaten your operations, and prioritize them based on the likelihood or severity of impact. Consider your natural surroundings, for instance, is your local area dry and forested or perhaps close to a major waterway? How could you keep the doors open in case of forest fire or flood? Build your list of possibilities, but remember to draft response plans as well.
Remember some crises aren’t “natural.” We rely almost entirely on technology, so a failure of infrastructure can result in calamity. Then there’s the human factor. I am currently working with a client whose business is besieged by disgruntled ex-employees keen on hurting his operations. Not only is he upset by the personal affront, dealing with this matter is taking his away providing the best experience for his customers.
2. Build loyalty with rapid communication tools.
In a pinch, could you let all of your customers know your business is closed for the day? Saving customers a wasted trip is a thoughtful step that can build loyalty. But could you retrieve customers’ contact info if prevented from entering your main work location?
Few business owners recognize the other reasons websites and social media exist – to provide important and immediate information in times of crisis. Posting a message to your website, Twitter feed or Facebook page doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be quick.
3. Gain control of your communication vehicles.
Are you or a team member even able to post to your digital properties? Many content marketing firms provide this service for small and medium-sized businesses, which is wonderful in good times, but it’s often difficult – or very costly - to get a hold of your firm to post an emergency message.
If you rely on an outside firm for your digital communication, work with them to ensure someone on your team can post as well. Gaining the knowledge is easy; creating and updating websites is now very easy thanks to the ability to drag and drop items. Plus, you don’t have to be a social media guru to write “We’re closed until Thursday” using 140 characters. Learn the user names and passwords to your digital accounts and, if necessary, write down steps to post a message.
Planning for disasters isn’t fun. But recognizing the power of preparation can go a long way to maintaining sales and keeping customers loyal.