150+ MPH winds, along with the massive force of a surging ocean are headed right for you and will make landfall in 6 days…what do you do? Some people chose to leave Florida altogether, but that’s not an option for many folks, whether by choice or circumstance.

The answer is: Get ready for whatever Mother Nature can throw at you. That’s what you do!

This story is about how two completely different companies came together and solved an emerging catastrophic problem.

“For a local business in South Florida, I can tell you from current experience that nothing truly prepares you for the chaos inducing approach of a Cat 5 Hurricane like Irma … period,” said Daniel Lezcano, Marketing Manager of Grill Tanks Plus. “We average about 50 to 80 calls a week from new and existing clients. Well with six days left till landfall we saw a spike in that number to about 1000 calls a day – no joke. The demand for Propane and grill repair were insane. It was an impossible situation”.

Or so he thought.

“The issue is one of efficiency. As a business you want to capitalize on all leads of course, and as a human being that’s in a position to make a difference in someone’s life you hate to miss out, but with so many calls, answering them all was basically out the window, calling the vast majority back was out the window … So what could we do? It wasn’t just about somehow fielding all these calls. The other dilemma was a moral one; how do we fairly delegate our limited supplies to the public? That might not have been part of the equation for other businesses, but at Grill Tanks Plus, we think along those lines.”

Grill Tanks Plus, needed a plan to communicate quickly and efficiently with customers. “And all of these concerns were pre-hurricane, what about post-hurricane? With the certainty of impending power outages, we weren’t sure we could rely on email or phone calls anyway. We also needed something that got our message out really fast because supply was hit-and-miss; we weren’t always sure when we would be getting our own supplies in from day to day. I 95 was a log jam, and we knew the supply plug could be pulled at any time.”

In summary the challenges were:

  1. How do you field 1000 calls a day with just two people manning the phones?
  2. With such high demand and limited supply, how do you delegate your resources to the public?
  3. With power outages being a certainty, what will be the surest form of communication?
  4. Whatever the solution, how will it be deployed?

After considering the options, Lezcano decided that text messaging was the fastest way to connect with customers. And, even if there were power outages, text messages would likely work both before and after Hurricane Irma passed. However, it was essential that clients could easily sign up for the service in an automated way, which really sealed the deal. “So what we did is, record a voicemail message directing clients to our site where we had placed a site-wide emergency alert with the join text network link embedded and finally, we were virtually hands free and had an efficient and fair system for delegating our resources. When our supply arrived, all we needed to do was send out one mass message to the ever growing list and it was then first come, first serve. It was also great because once they got their tank they simply had to text STOP to get off the list.”   

However, Lezcano had a few key requirements for the product he wanted. He knew that the service would need to be quick and easy to set up. The product needed to be able to get his customers on his list fast. And, at chaotic times like Hurricane Irma times, the company behind the product had to be an established company assuring his customer’s information and privacy would be protected.

All of these standards were met by txtsignal, a company just four hours’ drive north in Gainesville, Florida. “We try to make setting up an account really easy”, said txtsignal Founder Matt Donovan. “Normally, we provide text messaging services for restaurants, church alerts, event management communications, etc, but Daniel’s quick thinking perfectly fit his needs and the text message is really tailor-made for this kind of thing – people need and want information and the text message is the fastest, most universal way to do that”.

After an hour or so, Lezcano had an account set up, a message out to his customers, and customers already joining his list. When propane supplies were re-stocked, Lezcano would send out a text message to his customers, who could then quickly reply if needed. “My customers got my message and were replying within seconds. It was so quick and it enabled us to manage our supplies and help our customers,” Lezcano added, “The team at txtsignal has a solid, easy-to-use product and they have been around for over 10 years, so it was the best choice for what we needed”.

After Hurricane Irma passed over Florida, there have been scenes of damage, flooded homes and streets, and much recovery work being doing. For those that are still without power, many are using their grills to cook food for their families. “In the big picture, our company and team played a very small part. For us, customer service is #1, and with Irma, we felt outmatched. However, in the end we were able to help our customers in their time of need. We feel like we did our part as best as we could,” said Lezcano.

“We love to see things like what Daniel did,” said Donovan. “Our product can serve a lot of different needs, but it’s humbling to see how a simple thing as a text message can be this helpful in a time like this.” On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be a connection between a grill cleaning and Repair Company and a mass text messaging service, but these two companies figured out a way and made it work.