The recent onslaught of rains, rising rivers, and serial storming across the country, especially here in the Panhandle of Florida, has us securing our homes and businesses and swimming for dry land. With more water predicted in the immediate future, many business owners are taking up the old sailors’ cry: “Batten down the hatches!” According to Admiral W. H. Smyth’s 1867 encyclopedia, The Sailor’s Word Book, hatches are openings in the deck of ship, used to offer ventilation to those below. During inclement weather, the ship’s crew would put wooden strip, or battens, across the holes, and use them to secure tarps over the openings. If the tarps weren’t battened down thoroughly, well, the ship sank.
It seems only prudent to heed this history lesson as a metaphor for how we should treat our own companies during stormy weather. Not only are the lives of our businesses at stake, but so can be the lives of our customers. My business is an answering service, and I think about what is at stake for my clients. I serve mostly medical offices, plumbers, and HVAC companies. All of these businesses can become absolutely essential in a storm—and my company, which puts them in touch with their clientele, is the key to helping them perform their life-saving or home-saving services. The first is obvious: If a patient has a medical emergency during foul weather, and he or she cannot get through to the medical provider, the severity of the situation can escalate fast. Pipes leak and break in storms, and if they are not immediately serviced by my plumbing company clients, the interior damage can be devastating. And if an HVAC company does not get the message that a home or business is out of heating or cooling, they are likely to lose business to companies whose messages are relayed in a timely, efficient manner. Nobody likes to be hot AND soggy.
A strong answering service, then, becomes essential. In weather emergencies, the life of your company—and perhaps your clients—can depend upon simply getting that phone call. This is a number one reason why you should go with a service over a machine—if the power goes out at your place of business, the answering machine simply will not function. What if your business is struck by lightning? Will that same answering machine still be operable?
But how does your answering service stack up? The worth of such a service does not depend only on what happens on a day to day level—with promptly answered calls, friendly, efficient operators, and reliable relaying of messages to you—but by how they operate during emergencies. Does your answering service have back-up generators so that they can continue to serve you if the power goes out? Does it have a plan to keep personnel on staff, working around the clock to answer your phones, calm your clients, and get critical information to you in spite of dire circumstances? If not, you need to shop around. During stormy seas, a good answering service is that batten on the hatch.
Challenge: How will my ship sail in weather emergencies? Do I need to check with my answering services to be sure all holes on deck are covered?