Reminders require creativity, diligence

June 1, 2004 By    

It seems these days that customers largely ignore or fail to appreciate the
safety information we give them. Whether it is apathy or ignorance, our customers
often take their own well-being and safety for granted.

It’s not that they don’t care; they just don’t associate prevention with cause
and origin.

Sometimes we can send all the right material and try to teach our customers
important lessons on safety issues only to find they place higher value on what
“Uncle Fred” has forgotten about propane. This can be exasperating.

There is an old story about a woman on her roof during a flood. A rescue boat
came by and she waived them off, saying, “The Lord will save me.”
Another boat came by, and she dismissed that rescue effort as well. Finally,
a helicopter came by and a voice said, “Grab the rope!” Again the
woman proclaimed her faith. So she drowns, and when she gets to heaven, she
asks St. Peter, “Why did my Lord forsake me?” “Forsake you?”
exclaimed St. Peter. “We sent two boats and a helicopter!”

This woman did not understand that these rescue messages offered the key to
her survival. Sometimes, neither do your customers.

After a propane incident or accident, a plaintiff’s attorney will try to argue
that you sent your customers little more than a bill and certainly did not communicate
effectively about safety. You can count on the allegation.

The content of your messages can be as important as their frequency.

In January 2004 the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed a state court’s award
of summary judgment to a propane dealer based largely upon the fact that the
propane marketer could document sending no fewer than 33 valid warnings over
a 34-month period. Included in these safety messages were:

  • For safety reasons, a qualified service company should re-light pilots.
  • Never allow unqualified people to install or service a propane system or
  • Have appliances and propane system periodically checked by a qualified
  • Have your appliances and venting checked at least once a year by a qualified

This type of information should be summarized on the back of all work orders
and delivery tickets. Seasonal situations might benefit from separate mailings.
Rentals might benefit from an agreement with the landlord regarding notification
of change in occupancy, interruption of service and leak check requirements.

One thing we forget as we try to communicate effectively is that this is all
about prevention; there is no such thing as a good accident. Put your defensibility
on the back shelf and design communications that get attention.

Male customers – many of whom throw away instructions, fail to ask directions
and pretend to know what they are doing when it comes to propane appliances
– may require a “good old boy” approach. Female customers, however,
tend to crave information and be more receptive to safety messages that will
protect their family.

My point here is to suggest that you use creativity in sharing messages that
transcend gender and situational ignorance. If “being out there” will
make the communication memorable – I say go for it.

Remember, it is not our intention to scare, but rather to help our customers
be aware of how to use propane safely.

We cannot afford to “fail to communicate” in today’s litigious society.
Metaphorically speaking, in anticipation of that allegation, keep sending those
boats and helicopters!

Comments are currently closed.