When I say ready, I don’t mean with extra water or a backup generators. I mean, as a solution provider, do you have a plan for supporting your customers when they are affected by a disaster?
In a recent guest blog on the VARguy website, sales and marketing specialist Kendra Lee reminded solution providers that helping your customers through disasters – be it a super storm such as Hurricane Sandy or a simple spring flood of their office – can take on a variety of shapes. Sometimes support is as simple as calling to ask what they need, even if IT systems were unaffected. She writes, “Reaching out to [your customers] shows your solidarity and can genuinely make a difference to their current situation.” I agree.
When you look at your own processes, stop to think about what the standard operating procedure is when a disaster hits in a region where you have customers. Do you have a plan for who reaches out to them, what you can offer to do for them?
Consider this: Do you have more than one way to reach your customers? I could tell what areas of the East Coast were most badly damaged by Facebook updates from solution provider friends up and down the coast. Even without power, many folks found ways to charge their smart phones and stay in touch. Be certain the contact information you have for customers goes well beyond their office phone. Facebook, LinkedIn, text and cell phones become lifelines in emergencies.
Once you’ve considered how to get in touch, think through the many ways you may be able to help – with their business, to reach relatives or find family also impacted, etc. Maybe you simply have a standard policy of taking up a donation in your office to share with the affected area – nothing to do with tech, but appreciated nonetheless.
Also, once you reach a customer, remember it isn’t about you. Lee shares this advice: “Perhaps most importantly is to express concern on a personal level, checking in on their families and lending an ear to any stories they may have to share. Some customers may benefit simply from having someone to talk to about what they’ve experienced and where they’re headed. Any support you provide will mean a great deal to your customers.”
Ultimately, a disaster can help you convince a customer to consider a stronger business continuity plan, but you can’t do that unless you have your own process for dealing with a disaster. Sit down with your team and walk through what they would like to do and can do to support customers, and then, like any other strategy, put it in writing and ask for more feedback. I recommend running it by your customers – in particular if you have some who have been through a disaster. Ask what else you could have done. Then make sure your team – and your customers – know what the plan is if and when something bad happens. Sure you may get some extra business, but more importantly, you are prepared to be the trusted advisor – and a good business partner.