As I sit here writing this, some much needed rain is falling on drought stricken California. Over the last week or so, we have had scattered thunderstorms, often accompanied by torrential downpours and even hail. We have had some nice soaking rains as well, but the majority of the storms have been incredibly dynamic. Living in the high desert, none of us are very used to the rain, but after four years of drought I am grateful for every drop.
But this most recent set of rainy weather got me to thinking of that expression, ‘when it rains, it pours,’ and how true it seems to be. This phrase is most often used to describe two opposite, but similar situations. On the one hand, we use it to refer to when many bad things happen at the same time. However, it is also used to describe overwhelming demand; ‘too much of a good thing’.
Just as with rainstorms in the desert, too much of a good thing can have negative consequences. Demand at peak times can often overwhelm a firm’s resources. Knowing this, how can we prepare ourselves and our team for these ‘storms’? Individual situations will call for specific responses, but a few things can help you weather the storm.
- Shore up your defenses- If you can anticipate the storm, you can reinforce weak areas in preparation. Anything that you can do to prepare, large and small, can help your team to feel that they can handle this storm. Being able to increase your capacity in the short term can be difficult, but by strengthening your weaknesses, it makes it less likely that the ‘flood waters will break through’. Preparing your team will empower them to be better equipped to handle it.
- Keep your cool- Staying calm under pressure is essential for these challenging situations. As a leader, it is your job to keep your cool and be the example for your team. Getting worked up will not change the outcome of the situation, except possibly for the worse. Take a deep breath and prioritize your actions before rushing into things.
- Increase your customer service- You may only be able to increase your output rate so much due to limited resources (i.e. limited cashier lines), but you can greatly improve your customer’s experience through the expanded use of customer service. Have more agents available in the appropriate area (phone support, extra agents working the lines, etc.) and you can increase customer satisfaction and, most likely, loyalty. Taking care of your customers should be a top priority during any crisis situation; without them, your firm would not exist!
- Damage control following the surge- Inevitably, something will go wrong (if not multiple somethings) no matter how well prepared, calm, and customer service oriented you are. How you respond to this is just as important to how you handle the increased demand, or storm. Without spelling out a complete guide, one of the most important things to do in any type of conflict resolution is to listen. Listen to the complaints; let the dissatisfied customer or disgruntled employee get your full attention, and really hear what they are saying. Don’t just immediately try to solve the problem, but try to understand it as well. Clean up the mess left behind after the storm.
Sometimes, it all happens at once. How you and your team prepare, react, and deal with any ensuing fallout will significantly change how these times actually feel. Does it feel like you had a great, exhilarating, successful time despite the storm? Or was it an exhausting and draining experience that leaves you feeling like you have been through the ringer? Whether your storm brings a nice, life-giving rain or a torrential downpour, how will you and your team weather it?