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How to avoid tales of the unexpected

Ensuring that customers are still able to get in touch with a company representative during unexpected disruption to a business is essential, according to Dave Millett.

The managing director of consultancy firm Equinox, said company chiefs risked losing business if customers or suppliers were unable to contact the firm during incidences such as the recent underground fire in Holborn, London, which resulted in the evacuation of scores of companies.

He added: “It is not just unexpected incidents that cause disruption, it can be more common situations such as inclement weather – floods, snow and occasionally, in this country, heat – or transport issues either through accident or industrial action.”

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Mr Millet outlined a series of considerations firms should explore to ensure they are better equipped to deal with unexpected situations.

He said business owners should consider a call-forwarding system and the details of who to call if there is a power outage.

Voice over Internet Protocol is a telephony system that has the same features of a traditional phone system but converts analogue voice calls into digital data that can be transmitted over the internet.

Mr Millett said businesses that use the system should be aware of how to access VoIP’s web portal and how to divert calls – some VoIP solutions have automatic failover, which allows a system administrator to automatically switch data handling to a standby system in the event of system compromise.

He added that company chiefs would have to ensure that data was backed up off site and accessible from other devices.

Those using analogue phone lines should also consider adding a call diversion feature for an additional fee, Mr Millett said.

Firms that adopt an integrated services digital network – an international communications standard for sending voice, video, and data over digital telephone lines or normal telephone wires – should check whether they can only redirect all numbers to one single number.

If so, session initiation protocol – a communications protocol for signalling and controlling multimedia communication sessions – allows individuals to redirect single extensions to a different number if necessary.

Adviser view

Andy Brooks, managing director and chartered financial planner at Brooks Wealth, based in Cambridgeshire, said: “It is important for clients to be able to contact your business even if it is going through some sort of disruption. When clients have problems they want to know that they can speak to their adviser to get it solved.

“It is always a good idea to have a phone system that diverts calls received on an office landline to an office mobile. If a customer rings up and does not receive the response he is looking for, he will simply take his custom elsewhere.

“The danger of not implementing a framework for unexpected events is the loss of custom.”