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Outsourcing Your Reputation Mon 09 Jun 08

Raffles_singapore_sling_2I just returned from circumnavigating the globe with stops in India, Singapore and Malaysia.  It was a fantastic trip as I got to see many interesting things and meet some great people.  Although the purpose of the trip was business I did have some spare time for sightseeing.  Most of my time was in Singapore which is an especially nice place to visit.  In addition to seeing some of the sights I made the de rigueur visit to the Long Bar at the historic Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling.  The recipe for this drink from this turn-of-the-century colonial Singapore drink is in the graphic for this post if you're interested.  Raffles and the Long Bar is great way to figuratively go back in time.  I just wish I could afford to stay there.

On my last night in Singapore before returning to Houston I returned from dinner around 10:00 PM and since my shuttle to the airport was to pick me up at 3:30 AM I thought I would stay up all night and sleep later on the plane to start my adjustment to a new time zone.   During this time I got on the Internet to catch up on emails and other work.  Unfortunately around 11:30 the Internet stopped working.  I waited about 15 minutes thinking it might be a temporary problem.  When it didn't come back I called the front desk.  They indicated that they would have the Internet company call back which they did a few minutes later.  The Internet company indicated he network was down for maintenance and that it would be available in about an hour.  The service came back as promised and worked fine although this unannounced outage was frustrating.

Obviously since providing Internet service is not a core competency of the hotel they logically outsourced it to another company.  This apparently planned but unannounced maintenance period provides two learning opportunities; one for the Internet provider and one for the hotel, i.e. the company doing the outsourcing.

Maintenance downtime is a fact of life.  Unless you are able to provide redundant services you will have to take some downtime for maintenance.  When you do have to take downtime you want to do it at a time when it is the least inconvenient for your customers.  Late Friday night seems like a logical choice.  Although you have to take downtime there is no excuse for not announcing it to your user.  Although you cannot eliminate the problem you can at least minimize the aggravation.  Some things they easily could have done include:

  • announcing it in a very noticeably manner on the sign-up web page
  • letting the hotel know so that they can tell their customers in advance and are prepared to answer questions when customers call with a problem.

These options are easy and nearly no-cost ways to serve their ultimate customers.  Although they had the capability to do this they apparently didn't have the proper customer service attitude to implement a simple solution.  They didn't see things from the customer's perspective.

When the hotel outsourced Internet service to another company it doesn't relieve them of responsibility.  Like it or not our customers hold us for what we do or don't do and this also applies to what our outsourcing partners do on our behalf.  Although the outsourcing company is responsible for providing the service we retain the responsibility for managing them to provide the type of customer service we want.  When we outsource services we also outsource our reputation along with it.  Choose wisely and manage accordingly.

What steps do you take to protect your reputation when you outsource?

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