Weathering the storm: the importance of maintaining services during extreme weather

The financial impact of the recent ‘beast from the east’ was the worst the UK has experienced since the severe weather of December 2010.

Businesses and charities all over the UK were forced to shut down completely for several days in some of the areas hit worst by the snow. Vehicles and workers were left stranded on gridlocked roads and organisations providing important services were left with no choice but to down tools until the roads were safely cleared.

The disruption is said to have cost the economy £1bn per day and could halve the expected GDP growth rate of 0.4% in the first three months of this year.

But the consequences of putting your organisation on hold go beyond financial loss. The impact of extreme weather places a huge strain on public services and charities providing vital support to vulnerable people.

So what can service providers learn from this experience when it comes to coping with the effects of severe weather in the future?

Here are our tips for meeting demands under high pressure.

Be prepared

Weather forecasts are increasingly accurate, reliable and can often predict up to three weeks in advance. Keep a watchful eye out for upcoming weather patterns and prepare accordingly. Warn users in advance that some services may be limited or that call waiting times could be longer than usual, and make arrangements for staff to be able to work from home where appropriate.

Be as accessible as possible

During periods of extreme or disruptive weather, users may find their typical method of communication is no longer available to them. For instance, a power cut might make the internet inaccessible. Ensuring that you offer multi-channel support allows users to communicate with your team in a way they feel most comfortable with, be it a phone call, live online chat, or via text.

By providing people with enough warning about likely available methods of communication, you are giving your users the best chance of getting through to you when they need you the most.

Be responsive

During periods of extreme weather, accidents can occur in a matter of seconds. It is paramount that your staff are correctly trained to prioritise users’ needs appropriately and therefore respond as quickly as possible. If the weather is worse than predicted, make sure you let people know that your services are likely to be disrupted or limited as soon as you possibly can.

Be understanding

Periods of bad weather can be very stressful, scary and upsetting for people, particularly those who are vulnerable, and especially if the conditions are severe. Staff in direct contact with users should be understanding and supportive during such times and be trained to respond in every type of situation.

At Connect Assist, our main priority is to ensure our staff are always able to safely provide a service to our users no matter what the circumstances.

Thanks to our flexible working policy and local employment commitment, we made sure as many calls as possible were answered during the recent extreme weather. From Thursday 1 March to Sunday 4 March we received 3,726 calls to our contact centre of which 94 per cent were answered.

Bad weather affects everyone and often puts extra stress on services. Always ensure your organisation can cope with the added pressure by preparing effectively and organising extra resources wherever possible.



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