Live from NEMOA: Reacting to Universal Changes

Groton, CT–Though the title of the session was unfortunate, the timing was ideal: During her luncheon presentation, “Riding the Waves: Reacting to Universal Changes in the Marketplace,” Gina Valentino, general manager of Shawnee Mission, KS-based consultancy J. Schmid & Associates, discussed how companies can best survive a natural disaster or other tragedy.

How your company reacts to universal situations such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina determines whether it will be a victor or a victim, Valentino said. “When the window of opportunity presents itself, your structured, process-driven company can react quickly enough to increase sales or at least stabilize the sales shortfall. When a crisis happens, you need to pull together the managers from merchandising, marketing, call center, and distribution center to get a full assessment report. It’s not only the potential lost revenue but it’s also a question of resources.”

Among the questions to ask: “How many orders do you have out? Do you need to reallocate resources in the call center? “When a disaster happens, contact centers typically spike in call volume,” Valentino said. “That’s your first line of defense, and you’d better be ready.”

You really need to review with the key managers daily, Valentino continued. You also need to communicate with your customers via e-mail and direct mail. “Acknowledge the event,” she advised. When a hurricane severely damaged the crop at Cushman’s Fruit Co. last year, the company quickly informed customers that it would have to posit a surcharge; its clientele were willing to pay extra because they understood the situation. “They were upfront with their customers,” Valentino said, and the company survived the disaster.

“Hopefully, with strategy and open communication,” Valentino said, “your company can ride out the storm until conditions return to normal.”

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