Dishonest Debt Settlement Companies Hurting Financial Services Industry

With burst of the housing bubble and subsequent worldwide recession, Americans are facing more credit card debt than ever before. Despite many consumers’ best efforts, eliminating thousands of dollars in unsecured credit card debt is extremely difficult to accomplish alone, more often than not requiring extreme financial discipline and an impressive savings account. This situation has opened the door for bogus debt settlement companies who prey on these misguided consumers.

Debt Settlement companies burst onto the scene in 2003, offering an alternative to traditional debt consolidation firms. These companies offered the ability to bargain with banks and collection agencies to forgive large amounts of what was owed, enabling the consumer to make a down payment, and then pay monthly until the debt was paid off. This was different than the traditional programs which often wrought lower interest rates and fee’s, but did nothing to reduce the total amount due.

This atmosphere presents a fertile breeding ground for predatory companies.

Consider the case of a 65-year old woman in Maryland who asked not to be identified. She signed up with a company who promised to help relieve her of the $10,000 in credit card debt she had accumulated. She gave the firm full access to her savings account (A red flag in all cases) and deposited $400 per month into an account toward her settlement.

However, when debt collectors continued to harass her, she realized the firm had never contacted her creditors in the first place.

Five years of battling with the company, while continually depositing money into her savings account, caused her to wonder if she would ever get her debt under control. She realized she had been swindled when the Attorney General’s office called to inform her of the imprisonment of the firm’s leaders. Unfortunately, she never got her money back and has recently filed for bankruptcy.

Luckily, this situation is still the exception to the rule, as many of these debt settlement companies offer legitimate financial services and the opportunity to become debt-free. Still, due to a lack of governmental regulation, the predatory firms still lurk, waiting for the perfectly desperate person to come along.

Protect yourself. Do your research on the firm with whom you are planning to do business. Ask friends and family, visit their website, and most importantly, check with the Better Business Bureau. Debt settlement companies can be a wonderful tool in the fight against credit card debt, just make sure you choose the right one.

Careers in the Hospitality Industry

The hospitality industry employs a wide variety of people, all whom are essential to the productivity of any hospitality business. This service industry includes theme parks, cruise lines, event planning, lodging, and transportation, among other areas. Large organizations within these areas typically employ hundreds, and sometimes thousands of individuals to ensure the organization runs at optimal efficiency. These are some of the careers, both entry-level and those requiring higher education, that are usually found in the majority of these areas.

Hotel general manager
While this is specifically directed towards those in the hotel industry, general managers are one of the most important parts of any organization. In a hotel, this individual focuses on both the daily and special operational functions of the building, as well as monitoring financial aspects. General managers also deal with guest complaints and, overall, ensures the hotel has a good reputation. While these positions don’t usually require a four-year degree, the larger hotel chains told education in a higher regard. Full-service hotel chains may ask general manager applicants to have a degree in hospitality or hotel management.

Flight attendant, stewardess/steward, air hostess/host, cabin attendant
This position isn’t typically remembered as being in the hospitality business, but it encompasses one of the larger areas of the industry. Individuals who have flown in an airplane will be familiar with these professionals, and the services they provide to passengers, such as seat direction, customer service duties, and safety instruction. In fact, the sole responsibility of flight attendants is passenger safety. The educational requirements for this position do not require a degree, although it is looked upon as a favorable attribute. A training school, however, is required, and may take a few months to complete.

Travel agent
Typically, travel agents are employed within a travel agency. However, some choose to work on a self-employed basis. These individuals work to offer advice on traveling and destinations, as well as actually book flights, plan itineraries, and make other travel arrangements for their clients. Some also choose to specialize in certain destinations, while others offer their services to individuals traveling to a multitude of different countries. This job requires some additional training after earning at least a high school diploma. Also, travel agencies look favorably upon applicants who have taken classes related to the travel industry, such as marketing and international courses. These can be found at multiple community colleges, although some universities offer degrees in tourism and travel.

Customer Service – Balance Between Speed And Courtesy

Customer Service needs to change

A few years ago when a person went to a coffee shop, or a store, they were greeted with a smile, asked about their day, and then were told to have a nice day after they conducted their transactions. I work as a Paramedic in the city where I live and frequently I have to get things on the run. This means that I am running into coffee shops, and restaurants and convenience stores, and something dawned on me. I realized that almost never does anyone ask how I am, and beyond a what do you need? I get asked no questions. There is not even eye contact, and when they hand me my change, or receipt there is no have a nice day, and not even a smile.

A few years ago when I went into certain places that I was at often, I was greeted by name. I have spoken with many people and this is not just a me problem. It is a customer service industry problem that needs a change. I completely understand that businesses want service to be fast, because it is something that people demanded for years, but businesses have taken it too far.

It is time for a change

I am not upset with businesses, I believe we have pushed this demand to where it is today and it is up to us to bring the customer service industry back to where it should be. This starts with us. What we need to do as consumers is almost force the conversation. When you arrive at your coffee shop today or tomorrow ask the counter people how they are, and ask how their day is. Let us bring manners back to the customer service industry. Pay them with a smile and when they hand you your items or receipt tell them to have a nice day. By doing this we cause a change in the balance. This slows the transaction down just enough that less mistakes will be made, AND, it shows people behind that counter that it is OK to be interested in a person’s day.

I don’t know if people realize, but the loss of personal communication, and real contact is an epidemic in today’s society. This can be transferred into your home business work as well. The people you want to bring into your home based businesses will be far more responsive to a person that has the capability to communicate effectively. Network Marketing is all about the people, and this is something that you need to remember. When you remember that business is about people, you will start to see far greater success in your home based business.

What If Microsoft Expanded BizTalk Server Into A Online Collaboration Service? (Part 2)

I will now discuss how the new online collaboration service will be offered to Microsoft’s customer base and what challenges they would face in the market place.

The most important aspects of the Microsoft BizTalk Collaboration service fall into the following categories: obtaining customers and delivering on the service offering as advertised. Microsoft has a history of delivering off the shelf software such as Microsoft Office as well as high-end business solutions. Until recently most of all their SMB markets offerings has been done through service partners that create custom solutions unique to each customer. It is critical that Microsoft be able to reach these customers while maintaining their reseller network in place.

One suggestion is that Microsoft utilizes the established resellers and service partners to market to their potential SMB customer. The resellers would use reference sites to feed leads to the Microsoft BizTalk Collaboration service site. At the site the customers would be able to register for an account that would include billing information. Part of the registration process should include determining if they are using one of the many supported business connectivity adapters, otherwise they would need to set up a consultation to determine whether a custom adapter would need to be created or if a portal solution would be their best option.

The customer would be able to add potential business partners to their desired connection list. If the partner already resides on the BizTalk Collaboration network then connectivity would only need to be enabled, otherwise a business connectivity consultant would contact the desired company to determine whether they would be able to participate in the BizTalk Collaboration network. Once traffic between the two companies had been enabled then both companies would have visibility into the data that were exchanging.

There would be a console, an online portal, which gives each company access to information regarding specific statistics such a daily, weekly and monthly trading statistic by transaction set and trading partner. They would also be able to resubmit a purchase order or invoice if required as a self-service option directly from the site. The internals of the service would a based on a service-oriented architecture, this would allow for flexible implementation of services that would be reusable through customer specific implementations. All internal interactions would utilize XML schemas that allows for the transport of customer as well as meta-data to be used for routing, logging and tracking purposes.

The strengths of the proposed Microsoft BizTalk Collaboration service offering start with the reputation that Microsoft has built over the past 30 years as a company that delivers value to business of all sizes. Microsoft has brought many innovations to the marketplace that has consistently delivered lower cost and higher performance form companies of all sizes. The main weakness is Microsoft ‘s size. Dealing with a company the size of Microsoft can be very intimidating. Then we add the fact that most small business lack technical experience specially when dealing with leading edge technologies. The opportunities are endless when dealing with SMBs, this segment of the business integration market has been sadly neglected. A technologically savvy company with a strong reputation for delivering quality products and services would easily be able to attract customers in the SMB segment.

The threats within this market include the established value added networks. The value added networks have established links with many of the larger companies, although their business model is based on charging a per character fee based on monthly volume. Many of the larger businesses are looking to reduce costs and will not look favorably on solutions that would add further cost to their bottom line. Additional threats include small regional providers that may service specific vertical industries and markets. These regional players tend to provide connectivity only to major companies and have missed the opportunity to help the SMB to reduce their cost structure by implementing collaboration among companies with the SMB sector.

The overall market size for SMB B2B integration is estimated to grow to a multi-billion dollar annual industry. Current industry estimates include “Plastics industry – over 5,000 plastics suppliers and 18,000 plastic processors who trade in 30,000 grades of materials; Food Services industry – over 2,000 producers; 20,000 distributors, and 750,000 restaurants/operators; Chemicals industry – over 500 global producers of thousands of complex products; complicated distribution through over 50,000 intermediaries; Healthcare industry – over 7,500 distributors selling complex, regulated products to 275,000 hospitals; fragmented, inefficient industry and Printing industry – hundreds of national printers and over 50,000 regional printers in the US alone.” These figures are staggering considering that up to 95% of these companies have not invested in any type of B2B integration solution. Many may be forced to connect electronically to at least one major account within the next 18 to 24 months.

The competition in this space ranges from established value added networks looking to expand their revenue base to small regional operations that typically target very narrow market segment. The traditional value added networks which include Sterling Commerce, GXS and Inovis are not well prepared to reach the SMB market segment, their sales force has been predominately focused on the larger companies. These valued added networks have traditionally used the account manager model to service their customers, which would be too costly to work in the SMB market. The regional players utilize the Internet when trying to reach customers outside of their regional geographical area. Many of the SMB companies will need to have a trusted partner to assist them with this type of integration. Additional competitive pressures will come from the high-end B2B software vendors such as BEA Systems, SeeBeyond and IBM who are looking to expand their customer base by selling stripped down version of the enterprise products. Many of these products require complex configuration, which typically come at very expensive consulting rates. This model will be a very tough sell for SMB companies that have very shallow pockets and need to stretch their IT budgets.