Keep Calm and Communicate
As I write this I am closing in on 84 hours without power at my house. In case you don't live in the greater DC area you may not be aware that incredibly strong storms - what one of my favorite bloggers referred to as a land hurricane - came through and wiped out power to close to 2 million people on Friday night. As of this morning, there are still more than 86,000 of us without power in Northern Virginia.
Am I frustrated that I've had to throw away the contents of my fridge and freezer? Yup. Am I dismayed each time I return home to check on my cats and see that the temperature in my baby girl's room is climbing higher and higher (93 degrees last night!)? Absolutely. Am I mad at the power company that provides me with my electricity for not getting me back online sooner? Nope, not at all. I know they are working hard. Additionally, I think that they - Dominion Virginia Power - have done a tremendous job of keeping their customers notified and informed of what's going on. They may not always be able to provide you with the answer you want to hear (which is that your power will be restored in five minutes and never will it ever go out again) but by communicating during this "crisis" they may have managed to save their reputation.
From almost the minute the power went out on Friday night Dominion Virginia Power has been incredibly active on social media. I don't know what their social media presence was before the storms hit and I don't know how many people they have running their social media channels but I do know that they have been all over Facebook and Twitter. And, to me, here's the best part - they aren't just putting information out, they are responding to what others are posting and it's the responding that makes a difference. People want to feel like they are being heard and not ignored.
Ask them a question on Twitter about what's going on and you'll likely get a response. Post on their Facebook page and you'll get a response. They've been cognizant of how Twitter operates and have done all they can to respond to their followers without going overboard so they don't get locked out - and they tell you that's what they are doing - apologizing for not responding to every single tweet directed at them.
Every morning they put out a list of where their work crews will be that day and immediately they post it to Facebook and Twitter. Wondering if they'll be working through the July 4th holiday? One look at their Facebook page and I'm reassured that yes, they will be working around the clock until the last person has power (which is good since I'm starting to think I might be that last person).
So many people are frustrated and angry and feel that Dominion should be doing more but almost everyone following them on Facebook and Twitter has been thanking them for being forthcoming with what little information they do have and keeping those of us without power in the loop.
People may not always like the answers they are getting, and as the days pass people are becoming increasingly frustrated, but by harnessing the power of social media Dominion Virginia Power has done an excellent job of listening to their customers and keeping them informed. At a time when customer service seems to be lacking (see Pete's post from last week) it's nice to see that a few companies still value their customers enough to listen to them.