Online social tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Yelp are drastically changing how business gets done. Period. With that said, I’d like to take a look at one aspect of business that’s really benefiting from the increased use of online social tools. Emergency Procedures. Does your business have Emergency Procedures in place? For example, if you conduct business in and around BucksMont, PA where we were just hit with a foot of snow or more this past weekend, do you have a procedure in place to let employees know if your store will be open, closed, or opened late? Now how about this, do you have an Emergency Procedure in place for letting customers know?
Do you remember using that Emergency Call List when your business was going to have to stay closed on a normal working day? You know, with each new employee you bring on, and for every old employee who leaves, you update that list, print it out, and make sure everyone knows the procedure. Usually it starts at the top with the owner or manager deciding if their store will open on a day where weather or other emergency factors come into play. Once the decision is made, the owner calls the next person in line, then that person is in charge of calling the next person, and so on.
Perhaps your business still operates this way? You know what the worst part is, what if you cannot get in touch with the person you’re supposed to call? Do you leave a message? Do you call back a bunch of times OR perhaps call the next person in line? Either way, it’s anxious moments knowing that if you don’t get through, other people may not receive the emergency information before they leave for work. Well, those days are over…
Now, through tools like Twitter and Facebook, small business owners can write a new procedure. That procedure is as follows: “In the event of an emergency where you feel there is the possibility that our store will close (ie. bad weather), please check our Facebook fan page before coming to work. Someone from the organization will make the decision and post it to Facebook prior to the start of the day.”
Here’s an example of one of the Facebook Fan page messages I saw on Saturday February 6, 2010 due to the winter storm that hit the Philadelphia, PA area:“Tranquility LIFE Spa & Hair Design, LLC is CLOSED today because of all the Lovely SNOW!” Say goodbye to those employee call lists. Small business owners are now able to post one message on Facebook and Twitter and simply instruct all employees to check those social media profiles on days when they feel their could be a closing situation.
As you can see business owners are naturally migrating to these tools as a way to communicate with employees. Online social tools are making it easier for businesses to communicate with employees during emergency situations, but they have also opened up a totally new procedure that many business owners should be taking advantage of: Communicating your situation to customers.
Before the advent of using online social tools for business, there was really no way of communicating to customers that a store would be closed for the day. Granted, on days like the Philadelphia area had on Saturday, many people aren’t going out shopping in the first place. With that said, what if you’re a doctor’s office or another type of business where customers have an appointment setup on a day that’s in question? Well, you’d have to pay someone to answer the phone and unless you have a redirect system in place, that individual would probably have to go into the office. Obviously, that’s dangerous during bad weather days. Now, all of that has changed due to more and more businesses using online social tools to communicate with customers. A big key to this is also the comfort which customers have in using those same tools to communicate with businesses.
Now, on a bad weather day, businesses can tweet to their followers that the store will be closed or that there will be a delayed open. Businesses can send a Facebook message to fans informing them of the situation. Before a customer gets in his or her car to head out to your business, he or she is now checking your small business Facebook Fan Page or Twitter account to ensure you’re going to be there. If you’re not open and the customer finds out while at her computer, she’s thankful you saved her the trip. If you don’t post a message on your online social tools and a customer travels to your store, only to find out you’re closed, well then, she’s not going to be happy.
Here’s a message that went out to Master P’s World Class Tae Kwon Do Facebook Group yesterday:
Subject: No classes today – Saturday Feb 6
Just spoke with Master P and he asked me to let you know that we won’t be able to have classes today due to the snow storm. We don’t want to be contributing to the additional cars on the road which make it difficult to clear, not to mention everyone’s safety.
Enjoy your Saturday afternoon in the snow. We will see you Monday when classes resume.
And another that went out over Twitter. This one is from the Best Buy in Pottstown, PA:
GOOD MORNING FACEBOOK! At this time we are probably looking at an 11:00am or 12:00pm opening. http://bit.ly/bYGHDO
And just to round things off, here’s a message I put up on the Catalyst Marketers Facebook Fan Page and Catalyst Marketers Twitter account the other day. This was not due to the winter storm 2010, but the same principles apply. I learned that our host provider had a server down and guess what? That server hosts CatalystMarketers.com. In real-time, I was able to inform all of our Facebook fans and Twitter followers that our site was down. I was then able to immediately inform them when it went back up. This way, they were not left wondering what’s going on with the site and when it would be back up.
Facebook wall post (server down – 9:48am): Our host has a server down and our site is running on it. CatalystMarketers.com will be back up shortly – fingers crossed
Facebook wall post (server back up – 10:32am): CatalystMarketers.com is back up. Sorry for the inconvenience.
As you can see, online social tools are changing the way small businesses operate during emergency situations. These tools have allowed for easier communication with employees, as well as, created a communication system for customers. Are you using online social tools during emergency procedures?