As a general rule, insideARM does not write stories that could be considered “infomercials” for a product or service. Today we are making a bit of a U-Turn on that policy. But, recent events in Houston are a good reason for the temporary shift in policy.
The written and video accounts of the impact of Hurricane Harvey have been quite dramatic. Anyone who doesn’t have some sympathetic feelings for residents of Houston and the surrounding area probably needs to be checked for a pulse. The damage to the residents is life changing and horrific. Meanwhile, we see things like this from the Federal Trade Commission, warning people of a flood insurance scam. The IRS also issued this alert regarding fake charity scams relating to Hurricane Harvey. We can only say, scams like these are dispicable.
This brings us to a timely discussion about a new company in the call center space. The company is called ContactRelief, LLC. The officers at ContactRelief are seasoned contact center operators, having recently retired from United Recovery Systems (URS), a highly-regarded collection agency based in Houston.
Entering the company’s website, you will immediately find their purpose: “Helping business show compassion to consumers in times of disaster.” That sounds like an admirable goal. But what does it mean?
insideARM connected with Doug Schultz, Chairman of ContactRelief. Doug told us a little bit about the company - How it came about and what was the product. At URS, Doug and others developed highly sophisticated software, which has been in use since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, to track and suspend calls during disasters.
The company provides real time information to call centers to allow them to tailor outbound calling strategies for areas hit by a disaster. For instance, they provide information that would allow a call center to immediately suspend outbound calling activity to impacted consumers. Per the website, “Our disaster decision engine helps you make the best decisions – for your business, for your brand – and most importantly, your customers.”
In light of Hurricane Harvey, ContactRelief has stepped to the plate and made a very generous offer to the contact center industry. Just yesterday, the company made this announcement in an email sent to their industry contacts:
“Below is a graphic of ContactRelief's current contact suspension and resumption recommendations. The red color shows counties still under contact suspension. The dark green represents we had recommended suspensions but have now advised contact resumptions. The light green color represents today's contact resumption recommendations.
If you visit our website at www.contactrelief.com and click the "Media" tab, you will see the actual names of the counties and parishes currently under contact suspension recommendation in our recent posts.
I encourage you to share our posts with your LinkedIn connections as well as email your friends who operate contact centers. Should they desire the actual zip codes, area codes, or area code and exchanges for our recommendations, please ask them to go to our "Contact Us" tab, and fill in their information. In the Comments section, have them list the email addresses of the people they would like to have the information sent to. The information can be sent in an Excel format or in a comma delimited file. ContactRelief will also provide you with daily updates to their recommendations throughout the duration of this disaster event.
Due to the severity of this disaster event, we are offering this free of charge, and there is no obligation to license our ContactRelief service.
I know that this may require some effort on your part, but you will be assisting many consumers that are currently suffering under this record setting disaster event.”
UPDATE FROM CONTACT RELIEF ON 9/10/17:
ContactRelief has reduced the number of contact suspension recommendations for Hurricane Harvey from over 10M people at the storm's peak to about 344K people yesterday, September 9th. Our analysts have focused on reducing our suspension recommendations from the county level to a projection of the zip codes showing people that may be still impacted by this record-setting disaster event.
Conversely, we have added to our contact suspension recommendations in light of Hurricane Irma's projected path as of 7:00PM on September 9. As the projected path of Hurricane Irma proceeds northward through Florida and several southern states, we will endeavor to make contact suspension recommendations over the next few days to the projected impacted areas, while making contact resumption recommendations to the areas not having received significant damage.
Like all storms, it is impossible to determine the exact path, and our analysts and meteorology firm are working 24/7 to monitor and update us on Hurricane Irma's path on a regular basis. As of 8:00AM today, Florida power outages just surpassed 1 million households.
Additionally, overnight, most projection modals show Hurricane Irma's track moving westward from yesterday's projections. I suspect that we will be making contact resumption recommendations for many Atlantic coastal counties which were previously under storm surge alerts.
Many of us have decades of contact center operations experience. I personally have never experienced such unprecedented catastrophic events back to back in well over three decades as CEO of United Recovery Systems.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people suffering the impact of Hurricane Harvey and that are in the path of Hurricane Irma.
PS: In consideration of the devastating impacts of the current disasters underway, ContactRelief is offering to provide you with a listing of contact suspension recommendations by zip code in an Excel file which can be easily downloaded. Simply visit us at www.contactrelief.com, click on the "Contact Us" tab, and provide the email addresses that you would like the information sent.
Regardless of whether or not you think the ContactRelief product is something that make sense for your business, you have to applaud the company's efforts to raise awareness of this issue.
Speaking from personal experience, past efforts in this area have been ad hoc and clumsy at best. A client may send an emergency email directing suspension of calls into a particular zip code or area code, but it was often too little, too late. Operations needed to react AFTER the fact and with little additional guidance. No two clients provided the same direction. Many offered no direction.
Being proactive and sensitive to consumers suffering in these types of situations is simply the right thing to do.
Kudos to the ContactRelief team.