It was a month like we’d never seen before. As we watched Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria impact the US and Carribbean, and a massive earthquake hit Mexico City, a series of questions may have run through our heads. How can we help those people? How do they rebuild? How can we better prepare? As a society, we’ve talked a lot in recent years about upgrading our infrastructure, and that goes beyond roads, bridges and power grids. It’s likely owing to my profession, but I believe the modernization of communications that can be leveraged during disasters like these can literally be life savers for those communities threatened by situations like these.
The timing seems right – what used to be unsophisticated outbound technologies like “robo calls” are now going through a renaissance as more advanced vendors orchestrate multiple proactive engagement channels like text messaging, push notifications, email and automated voice, coordinating with IVR and digital through an omni-channel fabric and improving ease-of-use through cloud platforms. Using outbound notifications before, during and after an emergency like tornado or flooding should be seen as the first line of defense for local governments. Often, the first thing that happens as regions gird themselves for a disaster is a massive increase in inbound calls to customer service lines. Citizens are demanding timely answers about what they should do, and call centers can quickly become overwhelmed as wait times grow.
By combining voice, text and other channels in an integrated fashion, residents get the information they need through the channels they prefer, extending the reach of critical messages like incident preparedness, evacuation routes and shelter locations.
We all know this type of communication is important – and may become increasingly vital – so, what should we look for in an outbound communications platform?
- Security and compliance: Security must be the number one priority. Be sure your vendor is protecting sensitive data and staying in regulatory compliance with PCI Level 1, ISO 27001 certification and HIPAA-compliant data centers.
- Self-service messaging: You’ll need an intuitive user interface so you can easily record a message, use text-to-speech or choose from pre-recorded messages.
- Omni-channel contact strategy: It’s critical that your solution works across channels and supports voice, email, text and smartphone push notification. The ability to transfer to a representative or call center directly from a voice message is a bonus.
We don’t know when or where “the next one” is coming, but we do have concrete steps we can take to limit loss of life and property. Now is the time to take that first step.