Promises unkept

We are 6 days without power after Hurricane Irma swept through the Southeast US last weekend. For 6 days, we’ve been waiting and watching the news from our power company as they assessed damage and started restoration.   On Wednesday, after the presumed damage assessment had been completed, they issued a statement, promising power back to our county by midnight, Friday, September 15. Midnight came and went and there are still an estimated 60,000 residents in our county without power.

Citizens are lashing out against Duke, in comment threads, on articles, on social media.  They’re liars, money-grubbing capitalists, a

Until yesterday, much of the mood was one of patience and empathy with the hard-working power company.  As we approached the self-imposed deadline, and no admittance of failure was issued,  the mood turned to anger.

The problem is with the promise Duke made to its customers.

A promise unkept.

Sure, people are angry that they’re still sleeping in 90-degree houses and eating cold soup out of the can. They’re sweaty and tired.  They’re crabby.

But this is ultimately a communications issue.

They held fast to their “promise” even until 12 hours prior to their deadline, with over 80,000 customers still in the dark.

People don’t like people — or companies — that don’t keep their promises.  Especially promises on which their comfort and sometimes, livelihood rely (there are still dozens of businesses in the dark, too).

Duke should’ve issued statements that focused on how hard they’re working, how many lineman and bucket trucks and front-loaders they’ve brought in from all over the country. Duke’s president should be saying, “We’re working around the clock to restore power as soon as possible, and we are working toward the goal of September 15th.”

Softer words, less commitment, focusing on effort and uncertainty instead of a promise that I have to imagine, even he doubted.

Don’t make promises your company can’t keep.  If you do, make sure you make the process as absolutely transparent as possible, and begin sharing the problems and opportunities you’re facing along the way.

Communicate, early and often, to encourage empathy with your customers.