Home service businesses can face many different crises every day, from a technician being arrested for drunk driving to a poorly installed water heater starting a fire in a customer's home. If you aren't prepared in advance, even a small crisis can hurt your business.
A crisis can occur gradually or without notice. It usually falls into one of the following categories: financial, personnel, organizational and technological. Other kinds of emergencies are pandemics, security breaches or natural or manmade disasters.
Home service businesses are different than many others because your employees enter personal spaces in homes and other companies. Plumbing service experts, in particular, may need to be on the job, even during a crisis. It puts extra pressure on your business to have a plan in place, not only to safeguard your employees but also to make sure your business survives intact.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit some industries harder than others; those that had a crisis plan ready to roll out were better prepared to switch to Plan B. No business is perfect, especially during a crisis, but you can take steps now to help your plumbing business survive.
• How will a crisis plan help my plumbing business? Whether your business focuses on plumbing or other kinds of services, you need a written plan to be prepared.
Today, with cellphones being used as video cameras, surveillance cameras in homes and businesses and social media platforms posting immediate images online, your plumbing service business, whether it's B2B or B2C, must be aware of potential reputation dangers. Having a plan in place — whether it is a response to a viral video, a natural disaster or another type of crisis — is critical to your future.
• What would a crisis plan look like? Depending on who is creating your plan, it could be anything from a one-page list of emergency contacts to a comprehensive, detailed manual with dozens of pages. Typically, a crisis plan will cover the worst-case scenarios first. For instance, what does your company do if a hurricane is approaching?
The plan should also cover less immediate situations, such as what to do when there is a negative review or comment on your company's social media platforms or review websites.
• In a crisis, communication is key. As a plumbing business owner, always have an emergency plan in place detailing what procedures to follow if there is an emergency. The most immediate concern would be to ensure your employees know what is happening, either by initiating a pre-determined phone-tree or through an employee communications system, using a code or texting protocol.
Then, having a procedure to keep clients informed is essential. At the same time, a designated staff person or your marketing department head can prepare a press release or statement detailing how customers can contact your company during the emergency. Have staff post it on all social media channels and distribute it to the local newspapers and TV news stations. Be careful with this, though, and seek professional advice. You may be adding fuel to the fire by issuing a press release prematurely.
Your website also is a prime platform to post information about the emergency and how your business is responding.
If the crisis happens during a weather event, your services may be even more in demand. Your current customers, and potential new ones, will appreciate immediate communications from your business via social media, TV news, radio and other channels. Your employees also will appreciate a plan outlining each employee's role during difficult times.
During a bad-weather emergency, such as a flood or major freeze, the plumbing company that is most visible will get the business. A creative and responsive crisis plan will help your business be the one people call.
• A virtual crisis can be even more dangerous. When there is a particularly brutal online review, a critical employee illness, a criminal investigation, an incriminating video or other serious situations, having an effective crisis plan could make or break your business reputation.
While this type of crisis may not seem too difficult to handle, businesses have been ruined, prominent company presidents have been fired and reputations have been destroyed over similar circumstances. How your business responds to this type of crisis can have long-term consequences.
Don't wait until it's too late to develop a comprehensive crisis plan or, better yet, talk to a professional who has experience creating effective crisis plans for plumbing businesses.