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Customer Service Essay

Today addresses one of the most contentious issues in American business today: outsourcing. The article, When customer service is lost in translation, documents the dilemma of travel agency executives who must balance customer service with financial considerations. Reporter Bill McGee explains that an increasing number of agency call center positions are being filled by employees overseas. This offshore outsourcing represents an attempt by travel executives to cut overall business expenses. McGee lists Travelocity as a prime example of outsourcing temptation. When the company moved most of its positions to representatives in India, savings in labor costs exceeded ten million dollars. With the unpredictable nature of the travel business, such cost-cutting can become a lifeline for many struggling companies. However, the article highlights an affected and essential component of business which may actually cause executives more financial strain in the long-term: customer service. McGee details numerous horror stories from travel customers whom have spoken negatively about their call center experiences. Complaints range from mixed up flight times to disputes over infant carrying seats.

Critics condemn travel outsourcing precisely because they believe foreign representatives lack the linguistic and cultural understanding necessary to properly address concerns from busy customers. Even travel agency executives acknowledge

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that customer service may be suffering. McGee quotes business executives who are either responding to numerous customer complaints (by cutting or eliminating outsourcing practices altogether) or who are attempting a compromise (charging customers a fee to speak with American representatives). Since a sizable portion of travel business relies on repeat customers (frequent fliers), these executives are taking steps to ensure that short-term savings do not adversely impact long-term profit. In addition, the article describes a benchmarking effort for the travel industry courtesy of travel site Kayak. In the true tradition of benchmarking, Kayak identifies problem areas within the travel call center industry (such as difficulty in accessing a representative over the phone), and grades these particular aspects within several travel agencies. Utilizing electronic technology known as gethuman 500, Kayak is attempting to improve both its own business and assist the travel industry as a whole by targeting practices which work and—more importantly—those which do not work.

This article provides a focused assessment of outsourcing and its consequences, as the outsourcing debate spreads to more organizations and more business communities around the country. On June 19, CNN online writer Jessica Dickler posted an article which proves that managerial challenges affect every type of business. The article, entitled A popular tanning biz feels the heat, objectively reports the struggles of The Tan Company manager and founder Todd Beckman. Dickler recalls the company’s rise and possible impending fall in the tanning bed industry. When Beckman transformed his small store and service into a thirty-plus bed superstore, the executive was hopeful. The hope was realized when his start-up later became a thriving franchise with close to 100 businesses in numerous states. Now, however, Beckman faces the realities of an evolving culture. The article mentions several factors which have hurt business, including negative media coverage about the potential dangers of tanning beds and new competition in the form of sunless tanning beauty aids.

These factors, combined with the seasonal nature of the business (particularly slow summer months), have forced Beckman and his fellow tanning bed competitors (now potential allies) to develop new strategies to maintain business. Increased employee education is one area in which Beckman is focusing attention. He believes that better informed employees can ease customers’ concerns about the safety and reliability of the product. Another important tactic for Beckman is filling a niche. Since the largest percentage of tanning bed customers are baby boomers, the management executive feels confident that targeting this demographic will sustain business. Societal changes, product critics, competition, employee improvement, marketing tactics: the subjects covered in this article represent just a small portion of the challenges which business managers face every day.

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