As an outsourced provider of luxury customer service, our prominent brands rely on us to delivery customer service 24 /7 regardless of disastrous impacts such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  Like most outsourced contact center providers, we have an extensive disaster recovery plan.  Our systems are built to replicate seamlessly across our teams and our team is distributed across 30+ states.  From a business standpoint, all services continue with little to no impact to our operation.   Often, there is little discussion about the impact to those that deliver front line customer service, when they cannot work. It’s just as important to have a disaster recovery plan for team members as it is for the operations side

Our customer service reps (Brand Ambassadors), that live in the affected areas, suffered greatly during the recent hurricanes.  Our entire organization lived our core value of being Helpful, when the hurricanes disrupted our team members lives. The support from our team enabled brand ambassadors to start recovering and rebuilding quickly.

Here are a few tips on how companies can support virtual customer service reps during disasters:

  1. Demonstrate to the whole organization that you support affected team members, by communicating company wide Express Empathy and compassion.
  2. Communicate via TEXT.  During disasters, employees may not have access to email at all.  We found communicating via TEXT was an effective way to reach everyone to learn if they were safe, offer support and to understand their situation.
  3. Keep an Emergency Contact for team members.  Just like in school, having an emergency back-up contact for team members is helpful in being able to gain updates on their situation.
  4. Offer Flexibility.  Let team members know they still have a job and can return to work when the timing is right for them at their own pace.  They may not have an office to work from or they may be dealing with impacts to family members.
  5. Share Local Resources.  We were not on the ground physically to help our team members, but we were able to gather and share valuable local relief information and resources.
  6. Continue Compensation or allow Donated PTO.  We made the decision to continue to pay wages for those impacted.  However, we saw an immediate outpouring from all team members willing to donate their PTO to their fellow teammates.  Being able to continue compensation brought enormous relief to an already stressful situation.

Never has there been a time when we all wanted to offer more support to our team members.  We would love to learn from other organization that have distributed teams and how they support them during disasters.