ITB 2024 Special Reporting
Katrina and 3 Service Leaders.
By John Tschohl
Saturday, 8th October 2005
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) botched the Katrina hurricane and flooding rescue effort. However, three customer service role models did a great job. Frankly, I think FEMA should outsource its management to Wal-Mart, Federal Express or Home Depot.

Service leaders master speed. Federal Express, Wal-Mart and Home Depot all deal monthly with national disasters.

Wal-Mart: On August 29th Katrina shut down 128 Wal-Mart facilities in the Gulf Coast area. As of September 16, all but 13 of these stores were up and running. Wal-Mart had located 97% of the employees displace by the storm and offered them jobs at any Wal-Mart operating in the country. They have three guiding principles: Respect the individual, serve the
customer and strive for excellence.

Wal-Mart knows when a storm is on the way, its customers stock up on bottled water, flashlights, generators and tarps. The company shipped back-up generators and dry ice to its stores on the Gulf coast, so they would be prepared for any power loss.

Many Wal-Mart employees came back so early after the disaster that they often wound up running their own relief efforts. "If the federal government would have responded as quickly as Wal-Mart, we could have saved more lives", said Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee. Phillip Capitano, mayor of Kenner says "Wal-Mart trucks rolled into his city with supplies several days before the Red Cross and FEMA". The only life line in Kenner was at the Wal-Mart store.

The unions and class action lawsuit attorneys, who want to be the next US billionaires, have been unfairly blasting Wal-Mart for the last two years. Wal-Mart does a better job of motivating and inspiring their 1,600,000 employees than almost any other retailer.

Home Depot: Home Depot started mobilizing four days before Katrina slammed into the coast. Two days before landfall, maintenance teams buttoned down stores in the hurricane's projected path while electrical generators and hundreds of extra workers were moved into place along both sides of the projected path.

A day after the storm all but ten of the companies 33 stores in Katrina's impact zone were open. Within a week just four of its nine stores in the metropolitan New Orleans area were closed.

Federal Express: Dave Bronczek said, "We're used to dealing with crisis." In 2004 FedEx activated contingency plans on 37 tropical storms. This year the number stands at 31.

Before the storm hit, FedEx positioned 30,000 bags of ice, 30,000 gallons of water and 85 home generators outside of Baron Rouge and Tallahassee so it could move in quickly after the storm.

These three companies donated millions of dollars in supplies and support to Katrina victims, Red Cross and FEMA. All three of these companies are awesome at speed, having a caring attitude and a concern for their employees.

Any one of these firms could do a better job of running FEMA. Government in the US needs to attend some serious raining on how to prepare and handle disaster and it could be taught by these three firms.

Service Quality Institute: http://www.customer-service.com

John Tschohl Seminars: http://www.JohnTschohl.com
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