Using SMS in a snow storm – the perfect communication tool

At the beginning of 2018 the UK was hit with a severe snow storm dubbed “the beast from the east”, this forced councils to shut roads, people were unable to get to work, which ultimately meant thousands of businesses were unable to open. This was estimated to have cost the British economy at least £1bn a day (Source: The Guardian).

It is vital that if your business is hit by a disaster, you have a plan in place, even if it a simple one. A disaster recovery plan doesn’t have to be complicated, a simple SMS informing your customers of the issue and a link to your website where they can find out more, is all most businesses would require.

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Nothing is more frustrating for a customer than arriving at your store to find it closed, they have made all that effort trudging through the snow to get to you, to find out that you are not open. This is a complete waste of their time and will undoubtably frustrate them which could lead them to shop elsewhere in the future.

A very simple and effective solution to this is to send a text message. SMS is fast and reliable, and with 90% of all text messages being read within 3 minutes, using SMS to inform your customers, and even staff member of a crisis, is an extremely effective communication method.

“We are sorry to say that because of the severe snow we are forced to close our store for the next 2 days. For an update on when we will be back open please visit our website”

If you manage to open your store despite the snow, your customers will want to know this. They may think that your store is closed, or simply don’t want to risk leave the house. Send your customers a text message informing them that you are open, could get people coming to store instead of your competitors as they know you are open.

“Even with all this snow, we have opened our doors and put the heating on full blast. So why not come in and have a hot coffee in our instore café then have a shop around once you have warmed up.”

Be careful not to fall into the trap of only communicating with your customers, your staff want to receive SMS too and they will be just as annoyed if they turn up to find that your store isn’t open. Remember happy employees’ equal happy customers.

Not just for retailers, schools too
We talk a lot about how SMS can be used in retail, but retailers aren’t the only business that need to communicate quickly when a disaster strikes. Parents want to know if their child’s school has a snow day, or if the school is closed due to unforeseen circumstances. They need to know so they can make arrangements for their children.

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Schools don’t just have to us SMS in an emergency, SMS can be used to inform parents if their child has missed school that day, if there are any up and coming school trips and if the parents need to pay for these, when parents evening is, along with many other ways that schools can use SMS to communicate with parents.

How to plan for a disaster with SMS
1. Segment your customers – This depends entirely on your business, if you only have 1 store then this may not be required, but if you have multiple stores across the country, segmenting your customers into different locations is vital. Your customers in Newcastle don’t want to know or even care if your store in Birmingham is closed, and if they do receive a message about a store hundreds of miles away, it could cause confusion.

2. Create various template messages – Depending on what the disaster is you will need a batch of messages ready to go out. These can be the same message but for different store locations, the same message but for a different issue, maybe the store has flooded or if your website is down.

3. Decide on who oversees the process – When a disaster hits, you need to act fast. You don’t want to spend half the day scrabbling around on what needs to be done. Have 1 person in charge of sending the text message out, they should know what message to send, who it needs to go to, and when to send it.

Turn the snow into a positive with SMS
Now that you have your disaster recovery solution in place, why not take the opportunity to make a few extra sales. When a big snow storm hits, your customers will more than likely be stuck at home, bored, and looking for something to do. Lift your customers spirits and send them a promotional SMS message offering them a discount because of the snow.

“Just because it’s snowy and too cold to visit our store, doesn’t mean you can’t get our latest winter line at a huge discount – get 30% off all clothes and stay warm this winter”

Predicting when a snow storm will hit is hard, not even weather presenters get it right. But having a contingency plan in place, meaning you can quickly communicate with your customers when a disaster does hit, is extremely important to ensuring your customers are happy and most importantly, safe.