About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Communication IS Customer Service

Well, so much for the best laid plans of mice and men. I guess I'll have to wait for a little while longer for me to complete my top 10. Today, I'm going to write about the event that has put my town in the middle of the National News--The Ice Storm.
By Thursday night, we knew we would most likely loose power as we already had a 1/2 inch of ice on surfaces. We lost power around 1:30 in the morning. However, we were prepared.

Around dawn, we heard a crash. A neighbor's branch had fallen and landed on our fence and shed. We heard another crash around 8:00AM and looked out to see the top branch break off and take down 3 more branches on its descent.

Fortunately, that was the worst of the damage. Being prepared, we had a battery operated TV, lantern, a gas powered fire place, gas for cooking, and a hot water tank which ran on gas. But until 5:30 the evening, we just waited--waited for information about whether to go stay with friends, waited for the lights to come on, waited to see if our house's temperature would go below 60F, waited before we began to move food out of the refrigerator into the garage to prevent spoilage. Just waited. With no information. Just a message that said, "Due to the catastrophic event, power will be out indefinitely."

As the day went on and we grew more and more frustrated, I thought this problem is a symptom of most businesses today. They are afraid to give you information for fear that it may be used against you. Just like this picture, you are trying to put together information, but the image is blurred.

The other power company had detailed information available for their users. They have areas where they were currently working and time estimates (including those that might wait a week). They also gave warnings that these were only estimates and that there might be additional power outages. People tend to be patient when they have a time frame. This GIVES BACK their time for them to control, without the hurry up and wait press that wastes the customer's time.

So, now we have our power. The tree branches and debris are being removed. We've had power 48 hours (although, we don't count out some blackouts still as repairs are being made), we got our internet connection back this morning, and as my pictures show you, the icing really does make everything magical. Tomorrow we are expected to have a big thaw--and hopefully there'll be power restored so the kids can return to school!


Anonymous said...

What a great post, and if you are in the utility business and not using tools like twitter and online messages to maintain service even during outages frankly, your leadership should all be fired!

But, businesses outside of utilities and essential services still dont get it either. We are simply opening ourselves up for irrelevance and disruption- we are saying in all our brand and marketing comms we care, we value relationships with our customers but we give them NO VOICE! We dont want to give them any power, we control the content on our websites very carefully and we talk AT them, even in these tough financial times.

As an internal agitator for change for some 7 years now...I am at the end of my tether with our decisionmakers and leadership that still live with the dinosaurs in e-mail land!

V Yonkers said...

One interesting aside is that everyone with the bundled phone, cable, and internet connections had service for all communication outlets to their house taken out with one tree limb to the cable.

It ended up that, just like with 911, mobile phones and internet capable cell phones were the life line for many. Unfortunately, the number available usually was a landline. As a result, many of us began sharing our cell phone numbers (of course, after first looking them up on our own cell phone).

As you mention, it is not enough, especially in times of natural disasters, for a company to SAY they will give you customer service. We now are also finding the same attitude from insurance agents, distributors of generators, etc...

I don't blame those on the front line, but rather those in the offices who have developed these poor communication systems, developed to protect them from lawsuits rather than to bring in customers.

V Yonkers said...

BTW, our town still has half the residents without power and there was NO SCHOOL today. Maybe tomorrow.

Kathreen said...

Congratulations on taking exquisite shots of the 'ice trees' I hope you don't have any more unpredictable power outages! We're in the middle of the worst cold snap since 1996 here in balmy Victoria, Canada!
Take care! Looking forward to reading your top ten!

V Yonkers said...

My pictures don't compare to yours. But I am glad I was able to capture nature at its best/worst (depending on your perspective). The worst thing about the this storm was it was not cold enough to snow (so we got freezing rain instead) but it was down to 5F the next night (-15C) for those that did not have heat or power.

Yesterday, though, everything melted as it got up to 55F (13C). We're just riding the weather roller coaster, waiting to see what the next hour will bring!

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia.

What a great story! I do hope the residents in your area are not too long without power.


You may be aware that you are in my Top Ten Commenters and as such you would be entitled to the award, courtesy Scott McLeod, according to his award criteria.

I had not intended the display of the medals on my post to indicate that I was giving the award to myself. I understand that it may have looked like that and I apologise. I've amended the display so that there is now no confusion about this.

The awards are for my top ten commenters, however, of which you are one. Thank you for your comment contribution to my blog this year. I have thoroughly enjoyed your visits.

Catchya later
from Middle-earth

V Yonkers said...

Ken, there are still 20,000 customers without power today (down from 280,000). Unfortunately, new snow is making it difficult for them to work on the worst areas.

Thank you for the commenters award. I figured out it was to those commenters you identified (not to yourself!). I appreciate all of those the read and comment on my blog. As the title of my blog indicates, I feel that I have been "connecting to the world" over the past year, and hope to continue to do so.