Does Your Crisis Require a Call Center?

Thom Weidlich 05.24.18


The tools in the crisis communications kit are many: crisis plan, standby statement, aspirin. Another gadget that a crisis may or may not require is a call center. The crisis communications team must decide whether the woes that have befallen the organization require allowing customers, investors, or employees and their families to call in for information (and, perhaps, fear tempering).

The basics of the call center should be worked out ahead of time. Will you use a vendor or handle it in-house? If the latter, where will the call center be located? Do you have the equipment on hand, or would it have to be brought in? Will the center run 24 hours a day? 24 hours for the first day, and less so thereafter?

You should also think about — out of the crises scenarios the company is likely to experience — which would require a call center? Crises most likely to fit that bill are:

  • Facility Accident/Fire
  • Data Breach
  • Product Recall
  • Workplace Shooting
  • Other Violent Incident

The tool is particularly common with data breaches. For example, when Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor parent Hudson’s Bay Company announced a data breach of its payment-card systems on April 1, it promised “a dedicated call center to provide further information.” When Applebee’s franchisee RMH Franchise Holdings announced a similar breach in March, it also set up a dedicated call center.

A team member should be assigned to communicate with the call-center vendor. That member, or another, should be assigned to write the fact sheets and scripts that the call-center operators will use to dispense accurate information. The messages in the fact sheet must be the same as those being released to the media or other audiences.

Follow Up

A call sheet (or spreadsheet) should also be prepared ahead of time so that information from each call can be logged both for ongoing informational purposes and for evaluation purposes after the crisis is over. It’s important to note whether the query is closed, because that will indicate whether there’s outstanding information that was promised. It’s important to always follow up and provide information that’s promised. (See example of call sheet below.)

Information about the call center, including the vendor, should be included in the crisis communications plan. Just as with other aspects of the plan, it must be periodically updated. Contact information for the call-center vendor should also be included.

Here’s an example of a call-center call sheet:

Call-Center Call Sheet

  • Use this sheet to keep a record of calls about the crisis into the call center. Make as many photocopies of this sheet as needed.
  • Note whether the query is closed to indicate whether outstanding information was promised to the caller.
  • Note whether questions from the caller needed the call to be elevated to a different person.






Query from:

Response to:

Other information heard from about crisis:

Information promised:

Query closed?:


Photo Credit: VGstockstudio/Shutterstock

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Related:Don’t Wait for the Crisis to Assign Team Members Their RolesOn the Importance of Updating Your Crisis Communications Plan