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From the Publisher :: You Can't Outsource a Relationship

Some things you have to learn the hard way.

It had all seemed so logical, so smart, so efficient. Thanks to you, our readers, the YES! subscriber base had grown to more than 25,000, and we were distributing nearly 50,000 copies of each issue. But Sally Wilson and Sharon Booth, our two-person circulation staff, were straining under the load of entering all those orders. So, why not outsource the routine tasks to a company that is expert in fulfilling subscriptions? Then our own staff could concentrate on more creative projects. A fulfillment house can do the routine stuff better and more efficiently than we can, right? Well actually, wrong.

Here's what happened. Last October we turned over our subscriber database to a fulfillment house in the Midwest and began sending them all our subscription and renewal orders. The phone service, however, we kept in-house. Soon after we outsourced, we began receiving a stream of calls from unhappy subscribers telling us of errors with their subscription service.

Believe me—this was painful for Sally and Sharon. They have handled our circulation for years and know how to fix the inevitable problems that come up. But they're also used to getting lots of enthusiastic comments from callers about the value of YES! Now they were hearing more complaints than words of encouragement. While most orders were handled well, the number of errors was too great to fit our standards.

That made us realize a fundamental truth. You can't outsource a relationship. And a relationship is what we have with each of you, our readers. To us, you are not just a subscriber, you are the heart and soul of our work. You take ideas from YES! and put them into action in your life and your community. You pass along articles to friends and relatives, colleagues and clients, local officials and members of Congress. You use our arti-cles in classrooms, sermons, community meetings, and discussion groups. In short, you turn YES! into a tool—one that helps shift the foundations of our culture to the values of justice, sustainability, and compassion. Serving you is the most important thing we do.

Fulfilling subscription orders seems simple, but it is actually amazingly complicated and takes tremendous attention to detail. Doing it well can only come from caring about each subscriber. There's no one who cares as much about the YES! community as we do. No fulfillment house, no matter how well meaning, is going to match our passion for supporting you in the work you're doing to make the world a better place.

So we decided to bring the subscriber database back home. We made the conversion on September 27 and Sally and Sharon are delighted to be back in charge. Take a look at the subscription cards inserted in this magazine. You'll find the return address no longer sends the card to the Midwest, but rather to our home on Bainbridge Island. Your subscription orders, your renewals, your donations—everything comes right here. We'll enter all your information with care. If you jot notes to us, you can be sure we'll read them.

Fortunately, our brief experience with outsourcing had a helpful side. We learned some smart practices from the fulfillment house that we are incorpor-ating into our systems; and the interlude gave our business manager, Rod Arakaki, and our data systems programmer, Kevin Audleman, time to use their technological savvy to make a lot of improvements in the way we work. Building efficiencies in-house will still free up our staff for the creative projects they've been longing to do. And best of all, we're confident, once again, that we can serve you, our dear readers, with all the loving care you deserve.


Fran Korten

Fran Korten is the Executive Director of Positive Futures Network, Publishers of YES! Magazine.

 

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