How to Evaluate Service Bureaus (1,440 words)
This wouldn't have been a problem, except the bureau took about a week to conclude it wasn't equipped for the work, and then made no effort to find a creative solution to the problem—for example to locate a subcontractor or secure temporary access to the needed files. The cataloger had to scramble to find another service bureau to perform the necessary distance calculations so that an independent consultancy could produce the analysis files.
The cataloger ran into similar problems with another project that required the assistance of the bureau's programming department, which was swamped with work and pressed by deadlines. As a result, it took more than five weeks to complete what should've been accomplished in a few days. Throughout the ordeal, the cataloger had to prod and cajole the bureau to focus on the project.
Getting back to the service bureau evaluation, my client was frustrated with its incumbent bureau for similar reasons. While it did a solid job on batch processing requests in support of the cataloger's direct mail drops, problems ensued whenever the bureau was asked to assist in ad hoc projects. The bureau did its best to satisfy my client's special requests, but it failed because its employees were narrowly focused data-processing professionals. No one involved with the account had the database marketing perspective to provide my client with what he truly needed. Instead, the service bureau mechanically executed the required job steps.
Consider, for example, a request to perform a series of complex, one-off steps to create files for specialized back-end analysis. The service bureau ran the job multiple times during many weeks before finally getting it right. So the failure wasn't due to a lack of effort. However, the request was initiated to support a data-mining initiative, a topic with which the account team wasn't familiar. Working in a knowledge vacuum made it difficult for the team to be successful.