Emergencies or “Mom, why is your hair on fire?”

Is every day or every week the context for another emergency or crisis at your business? How do you and your staff survive it from week to week?

What do I mean “emergency” or “crisis”?

I’m thinking of some sort of event that causes you and/or your staff to drop everything to solve a problem that has arisen with a client, or worse, with a product or service that impacts numerous clients.

The ups and downs

While the upside of such events is small, they do exist.

  • Your team learns how they can depend on one another.
  • Your clients see your team and your capabilities at their best. Usually.
  • Your management sees what the team can handle and what it can’t.
  • Sales often discovers an opportunity.

Several things take punishment during these situations:

  • Your reputation with the client. Even when / if you quickly bring resources to the situation and resolve it, the memory of “yet another crisis” will take time to erase, particularly if you and your team were ultimately responsible. Being able to resolve a situation means a lot unless you could also have prevented it.
  • Your team’s resilience. While these situations “build muscle”, they also contribute to fatigue.
  • Your team’s timelines. If these situations are normal, then your team is likely to expect their timelines to be less meaningful because they know someone else’s crisis will intervene.
  • Costs during a crisis management are almost always higher because exceptions have to be made.

“Never let a good crisis go to waste”

You’ve probably heard this Churchill quote, but I think a better angle on your use of it is this quote:

Sometimes when Fortune scowls most spitefully, she is preparing her most dazzling gifts.‘ -Winston Churchill, 1931.

While there is no doubt that you can use the point of the “…go to waste” quote to your advantage to sell products and services that might provide preventative care, services in time of crisis or similar, not letting crisis go to waste is bigger than that. Using these situations as a lesson and example helps your staff, particularly your sales staff, grasp the value of that which your client-side product, service and delivery teams can do when pushed. The creativity and problem solving your teams provide might prompt your sales team to come up with new products and/or services that didn’t seem important a few weeks ago.

Better yet, and in a nod to Churchill, the situations themselves provide the context (and yes, a little bit of fear) that your clients may need to understand why an investment in preventative services is a good investment. At times, simply being able to show up on your client’s site a few times a year to step through their workflow and see what you can’t see every day is hugely valuable.

Programmers often cringe when they watch clients use their software because they can’t believe how the software is being used. The user’s reaction to a particular feature or user interface / user experience can be just as compelling. Until you invest in the time (even on your client’s dime) to immerse yourself in their business and experience what they experience on a daily basis with your products and services – you probably haven’t learned enough about them to help them in the best way possible. That impacts sales as well, since the lack of this knowledge can easily keep you from understanding the one powerful motivator, situation or pressure point that is the key to everything they do.

Can you prevent them?

Emergencies and crises can a product of letting products, services and/or situations fester, or of being so busy and/or understaffed that you can’t take proper care of your client relationships. However, they can just as easily happen to your company despite being on top of everything as best as you know how. A client’s own situations with their clients, equipment, staff, planning – or lack thereof – can create these situations just as easily.

For the situations you can’t avoid or easily resolve through consistent preventative maintenance, account management and client relationship care and feeding – it’s best to have a plan of attack. Your plans won’t always work out. Your plans won’t always prepare you for every situation. Despite that, having considered what you will do for the situations you’ve dealt with in the past – particularly repetitive ones – will help you and your staff deal with the new-to-you emergencies.