The Crisis Management Call Tree – Manual or Automatic?

Ensuring employee safety by rapidly disseminating the right information, and keeping communication lines open in a time of crisis are both priorities for businesses. Traditional solutions for this have relied on the manual ‘call tree’ or ‘phone tree’. Key employees are contacted first to inform them of whatever situation or crisis has arisen, with remaining staff to be contacted as soon as possible afterwards. However, even for smaller organisations of 100 people for example, the manual call tree rapidly demonstrates its limitations. For larger enterprises, there is no doubt – a better solution is required.

Ideally, the call tree should meet at least three major needs:

  1. Sending emergency messages to all staff and stakeholders instantaneously.
  2. Requesting registration from all staff in order to confirm their wellbeing
  3. Exchanging messages or providing a question and answer service to staff and stakeholders (which may include what to say – or not say – in case of contact with the media).

Fortunately, automated notification systems now exist to supplement or replace the manual methods. These systems can be connected to human resources records to send out messages using different channels of communication such as voice messages, mobile text messages and email. Being able to use these different channels almost simultaneously towards all employees is a crucial point, as it significantly increases the probability that the messages will be received.

Automated systems will also keep trying with the same message until they receive notification back that the message has been received. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of automated call centre sales call knows how persistent such attempts can be. But this is one occasion where being a pest can be critically important! Automated systems also have the desirable feature of not changing or deforming a message. This is a risk in a manual call tree where the ‘Chinese Whispers’ syndrome often sets in after the third or fourth time the message has been repeated in a chain of communicators.