HCSS is known for providing great 24/7 customer service for its software products. But during Hurricane Harvey in late August, HCSS also provided great service to its own employees.
HCSS Facilities Manager Kevin Murphree sent out an email to all employees telling them to unplug all electronics and take computers home in preparation for working from home, if necessary. This is all standard protocol ahead of any major weather event, but HCSS went beyond the standard in preparing for the Category 4 storm.
“We have a business continuity plan that we put into place,” Murphree said. “We have 12 locations around Houston that we’ve set up and called hot spots at 12 employees’ homes. If one of our employees loses power or something happens in their home and they need a place to stay, 12 people have opened up their houses to work or live out of if needed. We went Code Red on Friday and had everyone who was a hot spot get put on the list and made sure they were ready to roll.”
Director of Support Services Admir Hadziabulic also created an app that allowed employees to check the status of the building, including power and internet, as well as the roads around the office.
Murphree said the company was prepared to house a few employees for a night if needed and even ordered extra food to keep on hand. The building has a full kitchen and showers, as well as couches that can double as sleeping spaces in a pinch.
When the storm hit, at least two employees’ families who evacuated ahead of rising waters took shelter in the HCSS campus. Others also sought refuge with employees.
“I took on [Implementation Manager] Lewis Frey’s family and their kid and four dogs, plus my sister and brother-in-law and her two kids. There were four extra adults and three extra kids, plus four extra dogs, in my house.”
Director of Marketing Operations Kara MacDonald, who was staying at her parents’ home in Dallas with her family, created a way for employees to check in following the storm and update their status.
“I was trying to think through the information we would need in planning our daily check-ins,” MacDonald said. “One, we needed to know our employees were safe, and two, we needed to know the status of their homes. Do they need assistance? Can they get to the office? Can they get to anywhere?
“I was also trying to think if there was any chance our county may say, ‘We need to know how many of your employee were impacted or the type of impact it had on your business.’ By doing the forms, we could see statistics and see people whose status had changed. People might be fine one day and then they might have flooded the next day, or people couldn’t get out of their neighborhoods one day and could the next.”
Since roads were flooded in all directions all over Fort Bend County and the Greater Houston area, HCSS President and CEO Mike Rydin made the decision to essentially close the office for the entire week following the hurricane.
The company was in the process of starting to clean up flooded homes in the community, so employees could choose to volunteer with HCSS or in their own communities, work from home on anything they could, or take care of their own families. Some employees were flooded, while others had children home because daycares and schools districts across the area were all closed.
“We still had to provide 24/7 customer support like always, so we still had some people working out of their moms’ kitchens and stuff like that,” Murphree said. “But for the rest of the company, Mike understood that not everybody could actually work from home. So he said if you can’t work or don’t want to, then just get out in the community and help people out. That’s always been Mike’s position.”
Rydin said he had confidence in his employees aiding their neighbors or using their time to better the community, including helping the company clean out homes.
“I was just thinking that a lot of people were suffering, and we had the means to help,” Rydin said. “So why not help? I just trusted the employees to make good use of their time and not take advantage of the situation. I just trusted that the vast majority of the employees would do something helpful either to the company or the community.”
Despite the fact that HCSS was essentially shut down for a week or longer, few customers, if any, experienced any disruption in service or communication during the storm. Instead, customers only asked how they could help, including several who donated to the HCSS Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.
“We knew our customers would understand if they couldn’t reach us, and we knew they wouldn’t hold it against us,” MacDonald said. “But we were also trying to make sure that we communicated to them not only that the hurricane was coming, but the status of our employees.
“We realized how many were truly worried about our employees and just wanted to know our people were okay. Then they wanted to know, ‘How can we help?’ That’s why we started doing consistent communication, keeping them up to date with what was going on. I work with a lot of software companies, and I don’t know if there are too many that immediately I would’ve thought about somebody personally. We’re like a family.”