Our business was impacted in several ways by Hurricane Sandy that we never could have anticipated. Fortunately, things are crawling back towards normal and we are blessed that the impact we felt was secondary. We have those whose lives, families and livelihoods were directly impacted in our thoughts and in our prayers.
The most surprising impact was to our banking arrangements. We bank with a community bank (just four branches) that is located just a couple of miles from our offices. A couple of days after the storm, we discovered that check payments to vendors were not clearing the bank. We contacted some of the vendors to make sure that they had received our payments and they assured us that the checks had been received and deposited.
Digging a little further, we discovered that our “community bank” had all payments and other transactions processed by a central clearing house in New Jersey that had been taken off line by the storm. The bank had made no effort to contact us (we had been a customer for seven years!) and only reluctantly revealed some of the details of the problem. Two days later a small notice appeared on their web page (a page that had stayed up during the storm event). It took four days before anything was posted on their Facebook page. It took almost two weeks before things got back to normal with our bank and we are still waiting for any sort of personal contact to explain what happened.
The result of this “failure to communicate”? We are shopping for a new bank.
The second involved one of our primary suppliers. We did know that they were located in New Jersey and we began to express genuine concern as soon as the storm was predicted to make landfall in the Northeast.
The storm came ashore on Sunday evening, and it was Thursday afternoon before we heard anything from this supplier (we have been a customer for 24year!). During this time we discovered that their Twitter feed had not had a posting since February 2010 and their web site (which stayed online during the storm) had not had anything posted to its “News” section for more than a year. We attempted to get in touch with them through postings to individual accounts on employees Facebook and Linked In pages, but heard nothing. We combed web sites that provided news about their part of the state and even looked through hundreds of photos posted online. After four days of complete silence, we assumed that they were out of business.
The result of this “failure to communicate”? We are now in discussions with additional suppliers to make sure that we are not too dependent on any one source for the products we sell.
In this age of constant “one to many” communication that requires nothing more than a smart phone, the failure of a company to keep in touch with their customers in times of uncertainty is a recipe for failure.
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