The Value of Customer-Level Intelligence During Crises

This blog post was co-authored by Genesys technology partner, ContactRelief.

Not only are natural and man-made disasters becoming more frequent occurrences, but their scale is also growing. Hurricanes, wildfires, floods and power outages affect more individuals and businesses than ever before. And customer-centric organizations have an obligation to understand how this affects their customers — as quickly and specifically as possible.

Unfortunately, data regarding the nature and scope of various crises is insufficient to enable organizations to enact customer communications strategies with the level of timeliness and personalization that’s in line with the modern consumer experience. There are two primary challenges with widely available data on crisis events.

  1. The number of consumers potentially impacted is often overstated. Federal and state offices of emergency response typically declare disaster areas or states of emergency at a state or county geographic level. For example, during the 2018 California wildfires, all of Los Angeles county was declared be in a state of emergency when, in reality, a relatively small percentage of people and structures in the county were in harm’s way.  While this broad approach makes sense for some purposes, crafting an effective customer communication program isn’t one of them.
  2. Data about the event is not updated to reflect recovery efforts. Federal and state offices of emergency response are much better at declaring the beginning of a disaster than they are at declaring the end. For example, the FEMA Disaster Declaration regarding Hurricane Sandy (DR-4086) was issued on October 30, 2012 and remains in effect today. While leaving disaster declarations in effect long after the event has taken place makes sense for relief funds, those declarations aren’t a solid foundation for customer communication strategies.

Knowing How Customers Are Affected
The value of knowing specifically which customers are impacted by a crisis event and the duration and severity of the impact is significant. Let’s look at a few examples.

A hospitality company wants to contact consumers to let them know they’re offering significantly discounted rooms to anyone displaced by a spreading wildfire or approaching hurricane. At least two potentially negative consequences of communicating that offer to an overly broad target audience exist. People who are truly displaced might be crowded out of the offer by those who were not affected but, for some reason, received and accepted the offer anyway. In this case, the brand has suffered considerable damage as they can’t deliver on an offer made when a customer most needed it. Second, those who were included in the offer and are not affected received an irrelevant offer which, in today’s world of highly curated content and personalized services, has an extremely negative affect on brand image and customer experience.

Now imagine the potential downsides of compounding the challenges of too broadly defining the affected population by having a disaster declaration in effect after recovery efforts have begun. Suppose that a bank made the compassionate and customer-centric decision to extend due dates on its loan portfolio to those in the path of an approaching tropical storm. By using the conventionally available data to implement this offer, the bank put its cash flow at unnecessary risk by not only extending the offer to too many customers, but it also kept the offer in place for too long.

As these examples illustrate, there’s significant value to having customer-level data regarding the affect and duration of disaster events. Ideally, customers addresses are geocoded and overlaid onto a polygon of the geographic area impacted by a disaster. At a minimum, assessing customer impact at the zip code or area code level, instead of the county or state level, will yield more effective communication strategies.

Genesys AppFoundry partner ContactRelief is an expert in disaster data and communications. The company can help you understand and access the best data to devise and implement your specific customer care policy. To learn more about ContactRelief, please visit their AppFoundry listing for the PureCloud and PureConnect applications. And, view the on-demand webinar hosted by Genesys AppFoundry at your convenience.