The phone tree is a communications tool that organizations have used for decades to pass along time-sensitive information and emergency alerts. Schools, healthcare institutions and companies may use a phone tree to inform students and employees of weather-related closures, power outages or other unplanned circumstances. A phone tree can also be used for internal communications such as schedule changes, public announcements and reminders.
However, while the phone tree system is useful, it can’t address the modern-day challenges of a dispersed workforce, multiple communication channels and concerns of privacy and alert fatigue. Phone tree communications aren’t fast or reliable enough to be useful during IT outages, natural disasters, active shooter events and other crises.
Automation technology can enhance the traditional phone tree system, improving speed, accuracy and efficiency. Even with these benefits, however, a phone tree may not be adequate in certain scenarios, especially emergencies. A robust critical communications system incorporates the efficiency of an automated phone tree with many other features, including multichannel emergency alerts, incident management tools and status-check capabilities.
What is a phone tree?
A phone tree is essentially a method for communicating with a large group of people via voice calls. As the name implies, a call tree starts with the source telephoning a few people with a message. Each of those individuals then calls their designated contacts, who call their contacts and so forth, until the message gets passed to every recipient via an ever-branching “tree” of communication.
Common disadvantages of phone trees
A phone tree prevents the need for a small group of people to make dozens or hundreds of calls, which is inefficient and cumbersome. By spreading the burden of communication throughout the entire organization, a call tree helps ensure critical information gets to all recipients in a designated order. However, the phone tree system is inadequate in several ways.
While a phone tree certainly saves time over requiring one person to contact the rest of the organization, it is still a relatively slow method. Even if every person in the tree immediately calls their designated contacts, it can still take hours for the information to reach the people at the bottom of the tree. If any person in the phone tree is unreachable or fails to contact the next branch of the tree, it can take even longer for details to reach every recipient.
A phone tree is essentially an “official” version of the old telephone game and as such, there’s a high risk of information being corrupted, misunderstood or left out. Recipients near the bottom of the tree may end up receiving a very different message than those at the top, which can lead to confusion and frustration.
No tracking capabilities
With a phone tree, it can be difficult to ensure every person received the message. Some call trees require the individuals at the bottom to call the initiator to verify they received the message. However, not all call trees utilize this step, and this sort of check can’t accurately verify whether every person in the tree received the message promptly.
Limited communication channels
Perhaps the most significant disadvantage of a traditional phone tree is its medium: the telephone. Phone calls are no longer the default method of communication; most people prefer faster methods such as email, desktop notifications and SMS text.
What is an automated phone tree?
Technological advances, including VoIP and automation, have improved the traditional phone tree, making it faster, more reliable and less labor-intensive. These systems can quickly send pre-recorded voice or text messages to designated recipients, informing them of news, scheduling changes and other critical details. While these automated phone tree apps and services are certainly better than traditional call trees, they aren’t adequate for emergency alerts and other crisis communications.
Advantages of a mass notification system
Communication is vital during an emergency. Companies, schools, healthcare institutions and government organizations must be able to keep their employees, residents and visitors informed of emergency situations and provide them with instructions, such as evacuation orders. For situations where every second counts, an emergency communications system must be fast, reliable and easy to activate.
Rave Mobile Safety’s mass notification solutions are designed for speed and efficiency. With just a few clicks, administrators can send emergency alerts to an entire organization or designated groups. Emergency notifications can be sent via voice, email and SMS text, and they are automatically translated into the recipient’s preferred language. Other available communication options include desktop alerts, digital signage and PA system announcements.
Automated data management tools ensure contact records are complete and accurate, reducing manual work and preventing sensitive information from being shared unintentionally with individuals who are no longer part of the organization. Conversely, SMS opt-in/opt-out technology allows visitors and temporary staff members to sign up for emergency alerts without being required to share personal information or request to be added to internal databases.
With a multichannel emergency notifications system, administrators can be confident that their recipients have every opportunity to receive critical messages quickly, no matter where they are. Additionally, Rave’s notification systems feature integrated two-way communications tools that allow managers to request real-time status checks, helping them verify that all employees have received the message.
Keep employees connected and informed in any situation
Companies, schools and organizations of all sizes must prepare for crisis situations, from power outages and wildfires to cyberattacks and active shooter events. A critical communication and notification system is a crucial aspect of emergency preparedness, giving managers the ability to keep their employees connected and informed during before, during and after a crisis.
A traditional phone tree isn’t fast or thorough enough for use in a crisis. Fortunately, Rave Mobile Safety offers a range of critical communication solutions that address the gaps in a call tree. Our mass notification tools feature cutting-edge automation, incident management functionality and easy-to-use interfaces. To learn more about our prebuilt solutions or discuss a customized option, contact our team.