Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Winter Contingency Planning - Part of the Customer Experience

Where has 2011 gone? Do you remember December 2010? The country almost ground to a halt with snow covering most of the UK.
A YouGov Omnibus SME survey, which found that 37 per cent of small businesses said they had experienced "weather-related problems of some sort" and that 34 per cent of staff had difficulties getting to work.
Among the recommendations were ensuring that adequate insurance is up-to-date, winter-proofing the premises and devising a contingency plan - in case staff are unable to reach the workplace.
From what I remember the 1st week of January was as bad as December and things never really got going until mid January at the earliest, meaning that UK PLC was shut down for nearly 7 weeks. Can your business survive those conditions again? No wonder most businesses have been playing catch up time through 2011 and hasn’t time just flown by?

So what will you differently do this year? Why should it be any different this winter? Regardless of the weather and regardless of the size of your business putting in place contingency plans to mitigate the impact of severe weather makes economic sense.

All businesses are different and it is impossible in this short article to answer the question, indeed the options may be limited but that is no reason not to plan. Take 3 possible scenarios.

1.       Manufacturing grinds to a halt due to lack of raw materials. If you are in manufacturing or supply goods to manufactures is it possible to arrange for consignment stocking to ensure that once deliveries can start there is sufficient finished stock to cope with back orders?
2.       If your business is seriously affected when power supplies fail (and whose business isn’t) think about hiring/buying a stand by generator and make sure that oil supplies are topped up before the onset of winter.
3.       YouGov figures also showed during winter 2010 that 34% of workers experienced ‘significant problems' getting to work, with 10% unable to get in at all at some point. Communication systems, IT & Telephones, can be diverted for home use in many instances which can mean that essential workers can operate effectively.

Many businesses are highly vulnerable to the steep drop in turnover which often follows bad weather as customer records can be lost in flooding, phone calls and emails go unanswered and clients take their custom elsewhere.

Be prepared! Haven’t I heard that before? Let your customers know in advance about the contingency plans that you are preparing to keep their businesses running during the winter of 2011 and ask for their comments & suggestions

Along with protecting your business what actions are you taking to develop it? Before winter sets in put a contingency plan in place to gain & retain business for 2012. Develop your customer facing people’s skills in sales, communication, negotiation, customer service and the use of the telephone at a venue near to you in November.

Have a great winter 2011
Paul Clayton