Storm Ciara has battered the UK, bringing 200 flood warnings and winds in excess of 97 mph. Over 675,000 homes were left without power over the weekend, flights are still cancelled and the rail network is severely disrupted.
Coping with such chaos brings a range of challenges. A major one is managing the communications between public bodies concerned with public safety, and organisations providing commercial services such as travel, logistics and utilities. How do they manage this?
One of the main problems during a major weather event is scaling to meet demand. In a previous storm, for example, one utilities provider was faced with over 100x the average contact levels. In spite of this, customers need to be able to reach agents quickly, regardless of the number of people calling. Rapid, effective and personalised responses are especially important in situations such as this, when the power is out and customers are vulnerable.
Increasing the number of agents, updating a customer engagement hub’s frontline information (the first thing a customer will see or hear when they get in contact with an organisation) and changing communication channels all require an agile contact centre. Ensuring that the systems are in place for a contact centre to change the way that it is set up is key to weathering a storm.
Good customer engagement can also pre-empt enquiries by sending out mass communications via SMS or email, for example. This leads to another challenge: getting the right information to the right people as quickly as possible. For customers navigating flight cancellations or train disruptions, getting up-to-date information is vital. The same is true for logistics companies – they need to tell customers that deliveries are at risk of not being delivered. Agents must have access to relevant information all in one place, ready to provide the detailed answers customers are searching for.
As well as connecting people to accurate information, having a complete view of the customer (such as their location and past interactions) can help utilities, travel and logistics companies to identify those affected. Customer information is especially important for utilities providers, who must identify vulnerable customers to prioritise until the power is back.
As the storm continues, we’ve been working with our customers across the utilities, travel, logistics and public sectors to help them meet these challenges. There is much more work to do, and our thoughts are with those still being impacted by Storm Ciara.