Outsourcing: A Great Idea as Long as You Don’t Fall Into the Trap of Destroying the Customer Experience


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Situation: Waiting at gate A18 at a European airport one Sunday evening – together with approximately 200 other passengers on their way home, going on vacation or getting ready for business meetings the following day at the destination. Unfortunately the airline (“RDA”) is experiencing problems with the plane and the handling agent “Nova” informs passengers to wait at the gate where an update will be given an hour later. The scheduled evening departure means that there are no alternative flights that evening, so we all eagerly wait around for the update. A little less than an hour later a representative from another handling agent (“M.A.”) shows up at the gate as another airline (“Pound”) have a flight scheduled to use gate A18 an hour later. When the representative sees all the people already checked in, she demands that people leave the area!! Everyone is a bit surprised and a few ask questions whereas others informs the “M.A.” rep that we have all been told to wait here for an update. Several discussions occur, people are quite confused, it is late Sunday evening and the response from the “M.A” rep is simply:

“You are not flying with my airline, I can’t help you, but I have a job to do here, so you need to talk to RDA”

People are confused and a few ask: “where do you want us to go? What do you want us to do?, Could you tell us where we can get more information? Can you call our airline? Can you maybe ask an airport representative if we need to go to another gate?”

Reply from M.A. rep: “I don’t care what you do, but I am calling Security now, so you have to deal with them”

At this point I realized that we have become the latest “victims” of outsourcing – a strategy pursued by many companies to cut costs but unfortunately one that often leads to customer centric strategies and focus going out the window. Here we were, 200 customers feeling completely lost at an airport because instead of one customer experience focus, the airport now had 5:

  • RDA: airline we were supposed to fly with and who would care about us once on the plane
  • Nova: handling agent for RDA who would care about us during check in process
  • M.A.: handling agent for Pound and now at the gate telling us all to leave as they care about THEIR customers
  • Pound: airline scheduled to depart from same gate later that evening and who would care about their customers
  • Airport: the company that has all of the above mentioned companies as service providers – expecting these to deliver good service

I am sure they all individually have a CRM or customer experience focus but the lack of a TRUE customer centric strategy (as seen from the customer’s perspective) is striking.

Companies often seem to forget that splitting things into smaller parts (e.g. through outsourcing) doesn’t mean that focus can only be on the individual parts themselves (where sum of the parts makes up the whole). Instead, processes must ALSO be defined for each interaction or connection point and responsibility and accountability assigned.

I am often dealing with this situation both when it comes to outsourcing as well as collaboration between companies – and although not as sophisticated as other methods I use, the approach I use tends to work. I am curious, however, to know what others do in relation to addressing these situations in companies, what works, what doesn’t (e.g. usage of tools, frameworks or other methods)?

PS. Conclusion on the airline example. We all departed later that evening and made it to our destination safely – must admit that my perception of all 5 parties involved in this scenario has gone negative and one of my favorite airports is now one of my “favorite” examples of bad customer service.

Kristian Gotsch
Kristian Gotsch has more than 15 years experience within the world of CRM. As CRM Manager at the Eredivisie (Dutch Premier League), Kristian has a great interest in sports and CRM and is the founder of Loyalsticity. Prior to his current role Kristian held various CRM positions at T-Mobile, PwC and Microsoft. This is a personal rather than a corporate blog. My opinions reflect my own views rather than necessarily those of my employer.


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