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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Offshoring & Customer Service

The customer is King in all things marketing. Customer service is therefore critical to the sustainable success of any business. A recent (negative) experience that I had with Orbitz is the fodder for this blog posting. Besides my personal plight in this instance, I think it raises a lot of questions about the future of offshoring or outsourcing and what that may do to service-related businesses.

My plight in summary: My wife and I reserved a car via Orbitz, mainly as a result of the incredibly low (in comparison to point-of-purchase) rate of insurance, for our recent honeymoon trip to Hawaii. We show up at Enterprise-Rent-A-Car (where I worked for 5 days in 1997) and were informed that we did not have insurance. So, we needed additional insurance and paid for fact, we paid more than $100 more than what we were quoted for it online at Orbitz.

That was bad enough, but then we returned to learn that we were also charged for our purchase via Orbitz. I called Orbitz and was told by an Indian offshore customer service agent that (a) they couldn't give me the name or number of any specific person at Orbitz with whom I could address my claim, (b) I could only submit my complaint to the Indian offshore reps or via the website for forwarding to the Orbitz machine, and (c) that to rectify my claim I had to take it up with Access America, their 3rd party insurance provider, via a claim. And after becoming notably agitated with the representative who could do nothing for me, at the end of the conversation I received a gratuitous "Is there anything else that I can help you with today, Mr. Palmer." This customer service experience was unacceptable, period.

So, I received a partial refund from Access America, and fairly quickly. Orbitz, however, refused to do anything. My phone call to their general number was not returned. My email received a standard, cookie-cutter (cost effective) reply denying my dissatisfaction. And, I was left to eat the difference in costs.

Companies like Orbitz need to wake up. I am...or rather WAS, an Orbitz customer. I found the insurance option through them, reserved it through them, and pay money to them. I expect service, accountability, and to be able to TRUST them. I also expect to be able to contac them and to discuss any issues or concerns that I have, not simply how I can give them more of my money. They failed me and I wonder how many more innocent consumers they failed.

So, when companies decide to offshore or outsource, I wonder how profitable it truly is for them when customers, their personal business, and their professional business ...and that of their friends and pulled away from them. That will affect their bottom line greater than any ROI formula can ever account for. Businesses are supposed to be most afraid of silently dissatisfied customers. Well, for companies that offshore or outsource their customer service operations - perhaps the most critical component to their business - perhaps they should be most afraid of the noisy customers whose legitimate issues cannot be escalated or heard or discussed...and who post blogs to share their respective experience and affect x number of potential prospects or customers who may now never again do business with company y. Food for thought.


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