Office worker planning a strategy

Businesses face many competing priorities and demands on their resources

But in the wake of the pandemic, the importance of resilience is foremost in the minds of many business leaders. Everyone understands that the ability of a business to respond effectively to a crisis – whether a cyber-attack, data breach, product recall, natural disaster or health emergency – is key to its long-term survival.

Shift from prevention to resilience

In the past, businesses understandably focused more on preventing a crisis rather than preparing and responding to it. Think about the levels of investment in IT security to protect against cyber-attacks and viruses. The focus was almost entirely on protecting the business from attack. Very few businesses went on to think about what they would do if a crisis did occur. How would they respond? Who should be informed? What would they tell customers? How would they minimise impacts?

Building business resilience means ensuring you are prepared to respond effectively to a crisis. No business can be completely protected from cyber-attacks or any other type of emergency. As well as financial, reputational and commercial impacts, a crisis can cause considerable emotional distress for employees at all levels, particularly those on the front line dealing with customers. These impacts on health and well-being should not be underestimated. Emotional distress also affects customers, who may be facing financial losses, identity theft and the wider impacts of a security breach or major incident.

Minimise the shock factor with proper planning

The solution to mitigating all of these impacts is thorough preparation. Only businesses that have experienced a sudden crisis know just how many decisions have to be made very quickly and how far-reaching the implications are. Any crisis is always a shock to the business, but the speed of decision-making required and the complexity of managing every aspect of a response is often an even greater surprise.

Preparing your teams thoroughly and planning your response in detail is invaluable in building resilience. And it doesn’t need to be costly. Smaller companies will be able to build a basic recovery plan using something like our free Data Breach/Crisis Response Ready Hub. With a little more investment, Experian can provide in-depth advice, a full consultancy service with dedicated resources ready to prepare and respond and even a Guaranteed Reserved Crisis/Response Service.

The basic preparations you should make to respond to a crisis include:

  1. Ensure customer/employee contact data is accurate
    Communicating rapidly with customers and employees is an essential first step in a crisis. People quickly need to know what has happened and how it affects them. To prepare, make sure you know where customer, employee and other contact data is stored – and ensure it’s up to date.
  1. Create customer-facing notification templates
    You must react quickly and efficiently to distribute notifications to those affected. In advance of any incident, work out who need to know and how you will inform them. You need to ensure you communicate with them in the ways they prefer, and tell them everything they need to know. Having templates prepared in advance saves time and simplifies this process in the event of a crisis.
  1. Know what your contact centre experts will say
    Customers & employees are likely to have lots of questions when they are affected by a crisis. Identifying frequently asked questions (FAQs) in advance means your contact centre agents are well prepared to respond appropriately. If you compile a suite of answers to FAQs in advance, you can add more scenario-specific questions at the time of the incident. You’ll also understand in advance what level of contact centre support you will need and how to access at short notice.
  1. Managing and keeping stakeholders up to date
    Once a live response is underway, you’ll need to keep your various stakeholders up to date on what’s happening. If you respond well to a crisis, you will maintain the confidence of your stakeholders and retain the goodwill of customers – which is ultimately vital to the survival of your business.

The benefits of crisis preparation

There are so many benefits of being well prepared for a crisis. Primarily, there are fewer surprises. If the people involved in responding to a crisis know what they’re expected to do and have the tools in place to respond appropriately, the response will be much more successful and cause far less anxiety to employees and customers alike.

By doing your critical thinking and some of the decision-making in advance, much of the pressure is taken off when you’re in the eye of the storm. You are simply triggering a pre-planned response procedure, rather than having to make decisions on the hoof in the heat of the crisis. That’s good for the well-being of your decision-makers, as well as for the effectiveness of the response.

Planning the messages you wish to convey to affected parties and the channels you will use, as well as having templated communications ready to deploy, enables you to manage customer expectations far more effectively. By keeping customers well informed in a timely manner, you deflect many incoming queries and generate positive feelings of trust towards your business – demonstrating your expertise and efficiency in dealing with the unexpected.

That all adds up to a resilient business that’s ready to tackle any crisis calmly, confidently and professionally.

To find out more about building resilience through crisis response planning, please visit Data Breach and Crisis Response Services, or feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.