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Why open lines of communication are important now more than ever.

As more people around the world braced for the spread of the coronavirus, companies began increasing communications with their customers, and also internally with their employees. We here at Pumps & Systems ensured our readers that while we work from home, we will continue to provide up-to-date information about how COVID-19 affects the industry, while also providing the content we’re known for to help readers do their jobs better. 

We received communications from companies like Sulzer, which said: “Our highest priority remains the safety of our employees, their family members, our customers and our suppliers.” ISOMAG’s email repeated the same sentiment, and stated: “As a provider of infrastructure products, we fully understand the importance of keeping these products and services available, so we are open and fully serving our customers.”

Most of the companies in the pump industry are deemed essential as they keep industries such as water, wastewater, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, and power generation running. Still, these times are not just “business as usual,” and companies have shown that they know that to be true.

We reached out to Lori Ditoro, content marketing manager at Sealing Equipment Products Company (SEPCO) in Alabaster, Alabama, to learn how the company is communicating with customers and employees at this time. Ditoro’s suggestions may provide some best practices for your company, as well.

Pumps & Systems: Referring to your release on March 26, how did SEPCO decide to send this email out and post this statement on its website? What consideration was given in doing so and what did the company hope to achieve?

Ditoro: Our CEO Chris Wilder developed a couple letters. The first was for our team to have with them in the event of a shelter-in-place order being given. It indicates that we work for an essential manufacturer and are allowed to be out. The second was for our clients, to let them know that we are open and manufacturing and plan to remain open. Our products, as the release stated, are required for many industries, including food production, pulp and paper (we all need toilet paper and paper towels), and water and wastewater treatment. Because of this, our team will continue to produce the vital equipment that these industries need.

We sent the release to media primarily to help spread the word out that we are available for orders if needed.

P&S: How are salespeople and others at the company continuing to communicate with clients during this time? 100 percent via email/phone calls; have all in-person visits stopped? 

Ditoro: Primarily, facilities are not accepting visits from nonessential people, so most of our team uses technology—phones, Skype and Zoom meetings. The majority of in-person visits have been discontinued.

However, one facility on the east coast has asked one of our team to help onsite with a planned outage. This company produces the absorbent fluff in medical pads used in many applications including surgeries. So, our team member will be going there next week to help install packing and seals in some essential equipment in a very important manufacturing facility.

We also deliver monthly newsletters to our distributors and end users who have signed up for our Seal Connect newsletter. This is another way we communicate with our clients.

P&S: What message has been given to employees to communicate the company's procedures at this time? How often is this communication updated or shared with employees?

Ditoro: Most of our team works in the manufacturing facility, which can be noisy and busy. We have monitors throughout our facility that display vital communication. This is typically how information is shared.

However, for this outbreak, in addition to being displayed on our monitors, a handout regarding COVID-19 was given to each employee. Each manager also went through our plan and procedures with their team. The handout/conversation included: 

  • Safety procedures within our facility, including hand sanitizer stations, encouragement to wash hands for 20 seconds at a minimum, and staying six feet apart at all times
  • Employees only allowed to enter through two doors (where hand sanitizing stations are located)
  • No visitors at all allowed in our facility (only shipping and receiving)

P&S: What do you think other companies in the pumps industry need to consider when sending out communication to its clients right now? To its employees?

Ditoro: I don’t want to tell anyone what to do, but we have implemented all safeguards recommended by the CDC. I think all companies should consider implementing these recommendations. Also, our communication has stressed how essential our plant personnel are. They continue to do important work.

P&S: How are you monitoring your social media messages right now? Are there any best practices you can recommend, as far as what to share and not share at this time?

Ditoro: On social, we are attempting to focus on sharing the vital work that our clients are doing and the products they produce. We also try to add some humor. Sharing our educational content and the content produced by trade publications is also important. As people work from home and perhaps have more time for training and learning, we want to make sure we are sharing that kind of content. 

P&S: What would you recommend companies have in place beforehand in the likelihood that an emergency crisis occurs in the future? As in, what emergency communications should companies have on-hand at all times?

Ditoro: Our safety team works tirelessly to have emergency communications in place throughout the facility at all times, from tornado shelter rooms to where to go in the event of a fire. With this outbreak, they asked that we develop signage indicating that visitors shouldn’t enter our facility, which I think we will keep on hand. Our COVID-19 handout can also be used if we have another viral outbreak. The recommendations can be tweaked if anything were to change.