2018 had more than it’s share of disasters. North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia were all hit hard with notable flooding and wind damage as two hurricanes, Florence and Michael, slammed the Southeast. In the west, forest fires spanned the states of Montana, Nevada, Utah, Washington, Oregon and especially California which had its deadliest and most destructive fire season on record. Collection companies frequently seek to navigate sensitively around these disasters. Cornerstone invited Mike Chandler, co-founder of ContactRelief, to speak to this important issue in the following article:
Rethinking Contact Operations During Disasters
Staying one step ahead of a natural or man-made disaster is a concern that faces not only those in the way of the storm, but also those trying to reach business objectives. This is especially true for contact operations.
It’s critical to not lose sight of core business strategy when disaster strikes. It’s also important to be mindful of the lasting effects that disasters can have on both outbound contact efficiencies and long-term brand value. Too much aggressive outreach can lead to compliance issues and even damage a brand’s reputation, impacting business objectives and hurting the bottom line. But over-suspension of contact activities can have an equally negative impact on financial performance.
The Disaster Dilemma
So outbound contact operations are faced with a dilemma: how to maximize performance amidst disasters while still being mindful of those affected by the event. To successfully navigate this fine line, contact operators need to rethink how they approach disaster-oriented communication strategies. This involves adhering to strong yet flexible operating processes and a commitment to make every outreach count.
The secret to creating a flexible operating process involves understanding the fluid nature of disasters. Because hurricanes can shift at a moment’s notice and mass shootings come without warning, contact operations must rely on more than just news reports and high-level data to dictate their business strategies. What’s needed is a more precise and accurate way of aggregating disaster data from multiple trusted sources. This means moving beyond a single-source approach, and instead focusing on multiple, real-time data networks to supply the required information to efficiently deploy alternative business strategies.
Armed with this precision data, contact operators can make more refined business decisions regarding where to – and not to – suspend contact activities, effectively reducing the number of areas of opportunity that are incorrectly suspended while protecting their brand image. Proceeding in this fashion can offer more contact opportunities, improve financial performance and solidify positioning with lending partners. It can also impact overall market share.
Make informed decisions with a Disaster Data Engine
As an example, ContactRelief’s Disaster Decision Engine provides 24/7 monitoring for natural and man-made disasters. The cloud-based solution collects real-time disaster information from multiple sources and applies it to clients’ configurable rules to make precise recommendations to amplify, suspend and resume contact activities. When implemented and shared with contact operations teams, these recommendations ensure you are reaching the right people at the right time, without the risk of inappropriate calls or the negative impact of over suspending a larger than needed area. With the Disaster Decision Engine you can see the number of accounts impacted when an area is over-suspended and use this in a mutually beneficial conversation with your lending partners leading to more targeted decisions that protect the lender’s brand value and your financial bottom line. With the ability to integrate with leading contact solutions including Genesys and LiveVox and others, ContactRelief is a vital tool to ensure outbound contact optimization.
Prudence in Action: a Major Credit Card Company Improves Disaster Response Efficiencies
One major creditor relies on ContactRelief to help them more efficiently activate their disaster benefits, which offer temporary payment extensions to customers affected by major disasters. Once a labor-intensive process, that involved the contribution of all team members, ContactRelief has streamlined the benefits activation process by removing the need for the company to monitor the FEMA website for Disaster Declarations and develop comprehensive lists of affected zip codes in areas where FEMA is offering Individual Assistance to consumers. Armed with this information, the creditor is now just a click away from the data they require, effectively shortening the lead time to deliver these benefits while freeing up the internal team to maintain their day-to-day operations. The creditor is already seeing the benefits of the platform, allowing them to stay ahead of disasters and shift their disaster benefits processes from reactive to proactive. Doing so has saved them time and money while, most importantly, creating a smoother disaster operations experience.
Before co-founding ContactRelief in 2017, Mike Chandler spent over 30 years working helping to develop statistical process control and prediction tools for companies such as IBM, USDATA, and United Recovery Systems. At URS, he helped architect the software used to run a large multi-site call center with the ability to respond to disaster conditions at any level. He holds an MBA in Marketing from the University of Texas at Dallas and a B.S. Chemical Engineering with a focus in computerized process control and optimization from the University of Texas at Austin.