The Grapevine

Contingency Planning: Communications

November 18th, 2014

Planning for the inevitable communications outages in your wine shop can make the difference between a business-threatening disaster and mere inconvenience. Here’s what to think about. [level-members]

It’s happened already and you know it’s going to happen again. And yet, if you’re like most small business owners, you aren’t really doing much more than sitting there and waiting for it to happen again. That’s not smart.

Sitting and waiting isn’t smart because what we’re talking about are the communications outages that hit from time to time. Some are man-made – human error during an equipment update – while others are natural, like weather-related outages. Trees go down taking phone lines and internet connections with them.

If you’re fortunate enough that your phone or internet outage is your only issue, you want your customers to know you’re still there and open for business. If your problems are broader, you’ll want those customers to know you’re closed but workingo on re-opening FAST.

Contingency planning for communications problems is about having a solid set of steps to follow for the key aspects of your business where communications is vital.

If your telephone package includes call forwarding, know how to use it so that you can route calls from the shop’s landline to your mobile phone.

If you maintain a social media presence post far and wide about the issue and how best to get in touch with you. Facebook and Twitter can be a lifeline when phone contact isn’t possible.

Your website should include info, as well. That probably means having a contingency plan already in place for someone offsite (and ideally out of the region) to make the updates. They need login credentials and a plan for where on the site to post timely information. Then you just need to make one quick contact with them to say, “Phones are down but we’re open. We expect phones service to back by Friday.” or whatever the case may be. Everything else is already written out and ready to go.

PoS Problems
All of that is important, of course, but it’s pretty simple to make the plans. What if it’s not your phones or internet connection that’s down, but your PoS? (And for many of us, when the internet is down, so is our PoS.) Do you have any way to record sales without the PoS? Can you even get into your cash drawer without going through the PoS?

This is probably the area most frequently overlooked, and the one that is most vital to business continuity when technology goes haywire.

There are many other areas of contingency planning that you should think about, as well. We’ll dive into those in the upcoming weeks.