{BrandTalk} What not to outsource


Given that my official office is in Chicago and I live in California, I travel a great deal. Add in 2 or 10 speaking engagements and I travel a lot. And I fly one specific airline every time possible. Yes, to rack up the points and keep my special status- but also because when you travel this much you crave consistency. I like to know where I am going when I am jet lagged and sleep deprived, I like the waitress in the lounge to say ‘nice to see you again’ and I honestly really like my airline of choice. They do so many things well.

And then there was this trip. My back has been ‘out’ (read: severe pain for no specific reason other than I am old and have a bad back) and the thought of lifting a carry on over my head sounded dreadful. If I was younger and hotter someone would offer to do it for me. Or if I was older and MORE feeble someone would offer to do it for me. But alas I am 40 and now average and no one even sees me anymore. So I checked my bag.

I arrived, and discovered my bag did not arrive. I wasn’t panicked. I mean these things happen (although it has never happened to me) so I walked to the baggage counter and gave them my claim ticket. He said nothing. Clickty clacky on the screen he looks up and says ‘yeah, it might be on the next plane at 1am. You can wait. Or not up to you’. No “I’M SORRY?” (I yelled this. Even freaked me out) to which he said ‘Look lady I don’t even work for XXXX airline. We are subcontractors. I don’t even care about your bag.’


Naturally within minutes I was dealing with a supervisor, and then HIS supervisor to discover they were all useless. I waited for the next flight- and the bag did not arrive. Eventually going to my hotel room and the bag showed up the next day. MID DAY. And that was only after pulling rank and calling in my husbands platinum-gold-titanium level secret number at the airlines and asking for help (yes he is higher status than me. Kills me too).

The thing that struck me and what I kept saying in my head over and over is why would a company out-source the most crucial part of their business? A lost bag is a bad thing, but there is a chance there to show your consumers how much you CARE and to do things that offer them some comfort and service. This is the front line with the consumer. The face to face combat with angry, upset and distraught consumers- so why on earth would you leave that to a third party who has no concern for that consumers take-away from the experience? WHY?

To be clear, I love out-sourcing. I think there are many aspects of business that can be managed more effectively and efficiently by third party resources. Let the experts be the experts without you carrying the burden of overhead and risk. But only for those activities that do not touch the consumer. Behind the scenes accounting, digital builds etc…but crisis customer service? Hell no. Never outsource the chances to show your customers how you are better than your competitors. Lost luggage is an opportunity to move ahead of your competition. Lost luggage is not where you should turn your head and say ‘no longer my problem’.

I am heading home today. I plan to bribe beg someone to put the bag up over my head. Needless to say- I won’t be checking my bag anytime soon.

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