The Night The Lights Went Out

The slow and painful recovery in the Northeast from that fat, destructive, menace Sandy is truly maddening for those of us only able to turn on our flatscreen TV sets, huddle together on Facebook pages and retweet prayers from our iPads. Surely our efforts are helping, right? And the power companies are working hard on the ground, in the streets, at every door aiding each and every customer giving them everything they need, right?


Have we become such a wussy, passive-aggressive, web-dependent world? Have we finally eschewed the last of compassion and human touch by referring every, well … “CRM referral” to be online?

The news today some two weeks later that LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) is advising all customers still in the dark and without power to file a claim ONLINE and DOWNLOAD request forms from their website as a means to fulfill “customer service” needs is outrageous.


Looking at LIPA’s handy “Storm Center” landing page there is all kinds of nifty info, checklists, key forms, and even video showing how power is restored. Awfully informative for me … (living elsewhere with plenty of electricity from my office) but truly the poorest CRM example ever of how to completely ignore the needs of your customers. 

How blind do you have to be to ignore your customers still in the dark?

What about that large cable company that dumped their customers into darkness for TV/internet this past weekend without service for six hours and only during a pre-recorded phone message did they tell their customers to “Go Online” to fill out a service request? Honestly? Kind of hard to “Go Online” when you have no internet connection.

It bears repeating; how blind do you have to be to ignore your customers still in the dark?

Take heed, CRM peeps, while you sit in your office with access to all of the information, delivery info, urgent emails, backorders, delay timeframe, help desk access and other “trouble-shooting” mechanisms your customer is akin to a “blank page” where instructions should be. They know nothing and need communication in a form they can access to be managed through the crisis.

Holiday shipment delayed? Email is not good enough. It needs multiple emails, calls and even possibly a direct mail card. Service will be down for several hours? Try phone calls, mass text and emails. No power? Try phone calls, a representative on the street, or a table for questions at the local schools. 

Simply referring everyone to a webpage is not CRM. Hiding your Customer Service phone number so it cannot be found is not CRM. Leaving your customers to get your message via osmosis is not CRM.

Put yourself in customer’s shoes in their current state of mind; how would you like to find out that critical Christmas you need gift is back-ordered? That service has been discontinued? This is no longer available in your size? The discount ended over 10 days ago? That doctor is no longer accepting new patients? You will be without power for the foreseeable future?

The secret to CRM in a crisis (real and perceived) is how that message will be delivered and how it will be received. Leaving customers to fend for themselves will not cut it, especially in this age of instant feedback! Trust me, how it is communicated is in some cases more important than the restoration of the item or service in need!

In the old days it was a bullhorn and a horse; well, for Long Island it’s a start …

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