Is there such a thing as communicating too much with your customers?
Not according to Brian Fielkow, CEO of Jetco Delivery, which is based in Houston.
“Avoiding a panic mode is the top priority during any adverse situation,” explains Fielkow. “This is best done by sending daily email updates to your customers letting them exactly what is going on. The obvious issues during these hurricanes are finding capacity and fuel, and the entire logistic system is off balance, so you need to let your customers know exactly what is going on.“
While Fielkow has always been in the habit of meeting with customers, the need is even greater now. He is working very closely with customers to come up with solutions to the variety of problems that these hurricanes present.
“Logistic companies have to be transparent,” Fielkow says. “The cleanup effort is going to throw the market off base. And it’s not just the trucking industry; it’s the whole supply chain.”
One of the first signs of the market adjusting to the new supply and demand model is the increase in spot rates. He said he has seen some rates increase already and expects that to increase further as the trucking industry turns to repair and replacement, which will take more trucks out of regular routes.
Fuel, of course, is another issue. Fielkow points out that diesel prices are skyrocketing and until so refineries go back online prices will stay high. Once they do go back on line the demand from the trucking industry, increased due to cleanup, will continue to put pressure on fuel prices.
What is often forgotten in situations like this is the need to change the leadership style to one that includes a great deal of empathy, Fielkow says.
“In dealing with both customers and employees, you must be mindful of the mental devastation that is often overlooked,” he says. “If a customer seems to be on a short lease in dealing with my company, I understand. I listen to what issues they are going through and I emphasize.
“The same is true with employees. I make sure my employees understand that when they come back to work, I want them to come back with a clear mind, so if we need to adjust work schedules or any other factor, we do. “
In fact, Fielkow goes beyond sympathy and has been raising money and providing supplies both to employees that need it as well as members of the community that needs it. The company has an Employee Assistance Program that is helping both mentally and physically. They have arranged to provide financial assistance to employees during these difficult times.
And employees of Jetco are helping in relief efforts as well. One such hero, as Fielkow calls him, went above and beyond and took his truck, in the middle of a story, to deliver life boats to residents. “He didn’t need to do this but felt he should. And we are proud to have people like this as part of our company.”
When asked what advice he would give to other companies in dealing with a natural disaster Fielkow offered the following.
-Understand the human aspects of the disaster first. The more you can do this the safer and more comfortable it is for people to return to work.
- There is no need for rigid policies. Flexibility is the key. For example, make hours flexible, or allow time at the job for employees to check on their families at home.
- Change your leadership style during the recovery phase and understand that you might have employees who are physically there but mentally aren’t.
“Use this opportunity to improve your leadership skills,” Fielkow advises.” You can create a much stronger bond with employees which in the long run is a benefit to everyone.”