With All Due Respect
Several days ago two colleagues and I were having a conversation after attending an emergency response drill. During the conversation, of which I do not remember the topic, I said, “with all due respect” and was about to continue on. One of my colleagues interrupted and said, “watch out, anytime he begins a sentence with ‘all due respect’, he is going to come down hard about something.”
Personally, I did not know I did that. But now I do, so with all due respect….
Not every organization is an expert in all areas of emergency response. Nor do they need to be. Emergency response has become a multi-billion dollar a year business encompassing the entire globe. Emergency response vendors exist to fill gaps in an organization’s response capabilities.
There are many reasons why an organization may look outside its own walls for assistance. For example, there may not be sufficient internal resources to respond; exposing employees to the disaster may have unintended consequences because it may be difficult for people with an emotional tie to their employer to respond to their own company’s disaster; and economics may be another factor. Rather than tie up its own resources, it may be better to utilize an external vendor instead. The likelihood of needing the vendor’s services may be small and worth any retainer fee they may charge.
Whatever the considerations are that drive an organization to outsource part of their emergency response plan, it is incumbent upon them to perform due diligence when selecting a vendor. It is simply not enough to sign an agreement and pay a retainer fee and then cross your fingers that when the need arises, the vendor will perform accordingly. Far too often a company signs on the dotted line and then closes their eyes to the work that should be done with ensuring their new partner (vendor) is enmeshed with the company’s emergency response plan.
In my work with airlines around the world, I am amazed when I hear of a carrier that has failed to ask the most basic questions when it comes to their vendor service levels. For example, let’s look at the Telephone Enquiry Centre (TEC); because it will often be the first point of contact with the airline, the TEC is one of the most important aspects of a successful response. Many airlines outsource all or part of the TEC function. A few years ago I was visiting an airline, explaining the services of the company where I was employed. During the conversation I learned that this particular airline (like many) outsourced the TEC function during an emergency. I asked how the airline would transfer the passenger manifest to the vendor. The reply was that had not been sorted out yet. Then I asked how the vendor would provide information regarding call details to the airline so the team members could be assigned. The response was identical to the first question; the details had not been sorted out yet. The airline had the vendor on retainer for over 2 years and the details had not been sorted out yet? With all due respect…shame on the airline for not pursuing the answers to these critical questions. More importantly, shame on the vendor for not providing the answers before the questions were even asked.
I hope this practice is the exception and not the norm but I fear that is not the case. All too often airlines – and, I am sure, other non-aviation organizations as well – sign agreements with external vendors for various services without ever fully understanding the how, what, why, when and where of the services. Shame! Simply writing a check is not enough to cover your exposure. Your brand is at stake, so get involved and ask questions!
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