No Action Speaks Louder

I had another post written for today but after the phone call in the middle of the night I thought of a topic that was more immediate.  This is not a screed on how badly the local utility company is handling the clean-up after Sandy.  OK, maybe it is in part.  It’s also a great lesson, however, in how to manage in a crisis (or how not to).
This is the fourth major power outage in the last couple of  years around here.  Each time there are promises about how the utility will be better prepared and about how communication will be improved and transparent.  When predictions about Sandy got dire, a CL&P spokesperson went on TV with the governor to talk about how many crews were in place and how ready they were to handle the storm.  He raised expectations.  That was lesson #1.
Sure enough, the power went out, which is not their fault.  24 hours later, with 90% of the town out,  there were 2 crews in town although no one seemed to have seen them.  Another day later and there are at least 6 telephone crews out making repairs but no one has seen the power guys.  The handy map they have shows no one has been brought back online.  A+ for transparency  F for action.  There’s also a link to check on your outage status.  When you do so it says, in so many words, we have no clue.  There is no information.

At 3 this morning the telephone rang.  I’m not kidding.  In a panic, I thought a family member was in trouble.  Nope.  A recorded message from – you guessed it – CL&P saying nothing.  It was a big storm, we’re assessing damage, we don’t know when power will be restored.  So glad they woke me up to let me know.  Lesson #2 – when you have nothing to say, don’t wake people up to say it.

Every business has big issues surface from time to time.  Very few businesses have entire communities depending on them.  Almost none are total monopolies.  The bigger and more exclusive your business is, the more it’s imperative that you do more than provide lip service, particularly when it’s the fourth chance you’ve had to prove that you can perform and not just say that you will.

I wish there was an alternative to the incompetent idiots who are running this horror show.  Our mayor (called a first selectman) publicly called these guys out at a press conference: ” the CL&P response left me appallingly disappointed. We did not have the multiple crews promised in advance and progress was unacceptably slow in clearing roadways.”

Once again, they’ve done everything wrong.  Raise expectations and don’t deliver.  Promise to communicate and tell customers nothing.  Lots of words, no action.  Then again, as Lily Tomlin‘s Ernestine used to say, we’re the phone company – we don’t have to care (although the phone company has been great!).  Very instructive, don’t you agree?

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