By Kimberly Poston, Director, Account Support, GreatAmerica Financial Services
It started out as a normal Thursday by any measure, including shoring up details for National Customer Service Week*, attending our monthly Ops Review and working on some upcoming corporate training. Then, this normal Thursday quickly became anything but. Communication from our Business Continuity Planning (BCP) team of potential river flooding near us soon became the focus. At its worst, the Cedar River was forecasted to crest at just over 25 feet, a level that would surely put water into the first floor of the GreatAmerica building.
In the face of challenge, we rise to the occasion. And in this case, we refused to let water interrupt the service to our customers. Being prepared was key. Fortunately, our Business Continuity Planning (BCP) team had a complete Disaster Recovery Plan, which we were able to access immediately and put to good use. Located within the evacuation zone, we vacated our building and seamlessly continued operations in our backup facility. Luckily, the river crested at only 22 feet, the second highest on record for Cedar Rapids, and our building remained dry throughout the flood.
Kicking it into Gear
With our plan in hand, the GreatAmerica culture kicked into gear. There was a tremendous amount of communication amongst us as we worked through the logistics. One thing that became clear as we reviewed our Incident Response Team (IRT) was that even within a few short months of updating it – our company had grown, and we needed to refresh the team of people included. As much as we were able to plan ahead, there were still last minute calls the night before to add a person to a location, or to ask someone to come in early, and I was impressed with each and every team member’s flexibility. Our deployment plan’s success can be directly attributed to our people.
Our People Making the Difference
It was those amazing people that continued to service our customers at the same level from our recovery site as we did when we were in the comfort of our building. During normal days, we consistently monitor our metrics to ensure our service levels continue to provide The GreatAmerica Experience. Throughout these extraordinary days at our Hiawatha recovery site, the Account Support and Customer Service groups performed exceptionally well; in fact, overall service levels across all functions remained high.
One of our long-time customers, Mike Steinhoff, President & CEO of Rhyme, told us, “There was no difference in the GreatAmerica service levels from last week to this week—all our approvals, documentation preparation, email and phone responses were timely, as always.”
Customer service excellence has been a cornerstone of GreatAmerica since the day we were founded. As we’ve grown, we’ve created standards for the GreatAmerica Experience so that all team members are on the same page about the level of service we strive to provide. Things that make a real difference to our customers like:
- proactively understanding our customers’ needs
- monitoring coverage to ensure customer satisfaction
- one-call resolution
Executing our Plan
There was no greater moment of heightened awareness for the importance of The GreatAmerica Experience than when we were evacuated from our building last week. As one of multiple functional leaders with responsibility for the IRT, we were focused on deploying our piece of the overall Disaster Recovery plan. The BCP team did a phenomenal job making sure GreatAmerica had a facility to occupy, along with the systems capability to ensure we were able to continue business without a hitch. Our IRT leaders helped ensure the right people were in the right places to provide the best coverage possible.
Extraordinary People and The GreatAmerica Experience
In retrospect, we’re all thankful for many things, including all the preparations our company had made anticipating a disaster, the fact that the water did not actually hit our building, and our customers who continued to send business our way. Perhaps most of all, I’m thankful for our amazing employees that never wavered in delivering The GreatAmerica Experience.
The Flood of 2016 provided an even stronger example of what we remind ourselves of each year as we make plans to celebrate Customer Service Week. At GreatAmerica, no matter if your customer is internal or external, we are all in the business of serving our customers, and it is not limited to one week of the year—or even a particular location. GreatAmerica is the company we are today because of our people and the principles and values that serve as our foundation. And that is anything but ordinary!
*Customer Service Week is an international celebration of the importance of customer service and of the people who serve and support customers on a daily basis. In 1992, the U.S. Congress proclaimed Customer Service Week a nationally recognized event, one that is celebrated annually during the first full week in October.