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Explain the difference between informational and analytical reports.
Describe the direct and indirect patterns of report development.
Name five common report formats.
List the seven steps in the report-writing process.
Identify the questions you should ask to anticipate your audience’s reaction.
Compare primary data and secondary data. Give an original example of each.
Name at least two of the top four business databases and identify their chief strengths.
List four major sources of primary information.
What are the two greatest dangers in preparing and conducting surveys?
Why are your professors likely to discourage your use of Wikipedia, blogs, and many other sources found on the Web as sources in your reports?
List two strategies for managing your electronic research data.
Describe what documentation is, and why it is necessary in reports.
In what way is documentation of sources in colleges and universities different from business practices?
Briefly compare the advantages and disadvantages of illustrating data with charts (bar and line) versus tables.
Name five techniques you can use to ensure that visual aids do not distort graphic information.
Why do businesses spend so much time producing reports, both informational and analytical? Why do they compose long reports when no one seems to have time to read them?
When you are engaged in the planning process of a report, what is the advantage of factoring (the process of breaking problems into sub problems)?
For long reports, why is a written work plan a wise idea?
Is information obtained on the Web as reliable as information obtained from journals, newspapers, and magazines?
Some people say that business reports never contain footnotes. If you were writing your first report for a business and you did considerable research, what would you do about documenting your sources?
Your sales team has experienced a sharp decline of revenue after the departure of the two top sellers, and you dread the sales meeting at headquarters where the latest numbers will be crunched and compared to past performance. Your presentation partner suggests that you stretch the time line of your graphic to make the drop in sales revenue look less steep. Should you go along?
Report Functions, Writing Styles, and Formats
For the following reports,
(a) Name the report’s primary function (informational or analytical),
(b) Recommend a direct or indirect pattern of development, and
(c) Select a report format (memo, letter, or manuscript).
a. A persuasive proposal from a group of concerned citizens to their city council opposing the conversion of a nearby park and recreational area to a construction zone. A builder wants to pay the city a lot of money to turn the grounds into a gated community and a private golf course.
b. A feasibility report in the leisure industry put together by consultants who compare the potential of a future theme park at two different sites.
c. A report submitted by a sales rep to her manager describing her attendance at a marathon pre-race exhibition, including the reactions of runners to a new low-carbohydrate energy drink.
d. A recommendation report from a special review team (composed of members of the board of directors and staff) to the executive director of a major nonprofit organization to outline the necessary computer and phone system upgrades for the organization’s headquarters building.
e. A progress report from a location manager to a Hollywood production company describing safety, fire, and environmental precautions taken for the shooting of a stunt involving blowing up a power boat in the Alamitos Bay marina.
f. A report from a national shipping company telling state authorities how it has improved its safety program so that its trucks now comply with state regulations. The report describes but doesn’t interpret the program.
g. A report prepared by an outside consultant examining whether a sports franchise should refurbish its stadium or look to relocate to another city.
Data Forms and Questions
In conducting research for the following reports, name at least one form of data you will need and questions you should ask to determine whether that set of data is appropriate.
a. A report on business attire in banking that you must submit to your company’s executives who want to issue a formal professional dress code on the job.
b. A report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest investigating the nutritional value of products advertised on afternoon and Saturday television for kids.20
c. A report by federal investigators analyzing the causes of a massive Midwest power grid failure.21
d. A report examining the effectiveness of ethics codes in American businesses.
Problem, Purpose, and Scope Statements
The following situations require reports. For each situation write
(a) A concise problem question,
(b) A simple statement of purpose, and
(c) A scope statement.
a. Car buyers regularly complain in post purchase surveys about the persuasive tactics of the so-called “closers,” salespeople trained to finalize the deal. Your car dealership wishes to improve customer satisfaction in the stressful price-negotiation process.
b. Last winter a severe ice storm damaged well over 50 percent of the pecan trees lining the main street in the small town of Ardmore. The local university’s experts believe that well over 70 percent of the damaged trees will die in the next two years and that this variety is not the best one for providing shade (one of the major reasons for planting them ten years ago).
c. New York enacted strict regulations banning trans fats in restaurant fare. Food processors nationwide are wondering whether they need to make changes too before being forced to switch to non hydrogenated fats by law. Food and Drug Administration regulations have already changed the definitions of common terms such as fresh, fat free, low in cholesterol, and light. The Thin Crust Bakery worries that it may have to change its production process and rewrite all its package labels. Thin Crust doesn’t know whether to hire a laboratory or a consultant for this project.
d. Customers placing telephone orders for outdoor gear with REI typically order only one or two items. The company wonders whether it can train telephone service reps to motivate customers to increase the number of items ordered per call.
Problem and Purpose Statements
Identify a problem in your current job or a previous job, such as inadequate equipment, inefficient procedures, poor customer service, poor product quality, or personnel problems. Assume your boss agrees with your criticism and asks you to prepare a report. Write
(a) A two- or three-sentence statement describing the problem,
(b) A problem question, and
(c) A simple statement of purpose for your report.
One of the biggest problems of student writers is paraphrasing secondary sources correctly to avoid plagiarism.
For each of the following, read the original passage. Analyze the paraphrased version. List the weaknesses in relation to what you have learned about plagiarism and the use of references. Then write an improved version.
a. Original Passage
The collapse in the cost of computing has made cellular communication economically viable. Worldwide, one in two new phone subscriptions is cellular. The digital revolution in telephony is most advanced in poorer countries because they have been able to skip the outdated technological step of relying on land lines.
The drop in computing costs now makes cellular communication affordable around the world. In fact, one out of every two new phones is cellular. The digital revolution in cellular telephones is developing faster in poorer countries because they could skip the outdated technological process of using land lines.
b. Original Passage
Search site Yahoo kept world news prominent on its front page because users feel secure knowing that it is easily accessible, even if they don’t often click it. Conspicuous placement also went to entertainment, which draws heavy traffic from people seeking a diversion at work. By contrast, seemingly work-related content such as finance gets ample use in the evening when people pay bills and manage personal portfolios.
Search giant Yahoo kept news prominent on its portal since its customers feel good knowing it is there, even though they don’t read it much. Such noticeable placement was also used for entertainment news that attracts heavy traffic from users searching for a distraction at work. As opposed to that, what may seem work related, such as finance, is much visited at night when people pay their bills and manage their portfolios.
c. Original Passage
Wal-Mart’s bid to offer more fashionable apparel was a bid for Target’s business. With designer names and fashion flair, Target has made customers comfortable buying dental floss and flirty dresses under one giant, uber-hip roof. . Wal-Mart found out that though its edgier Metro 7 line for women sold well in several hundred stores, the line’s skinny jeans and other higher-style fashions bombed when the company expanded it to all of its stores.
By offering more fashionable clothes, Wal-Mart was bidding for Target’s business. With fashion flair and designer names, Target had attracted customers who would buy dental floss and sexy dresses under one roof. Wal-Mart learned that its hip Metro 7 line for women sold well in hundreds of stores, but the skinny jeans and higher-style clothes misfired when the retailer took them to 3,000 of its stores.
Factoring and Outlining a Problem Japan Airlines has asked your company, Connections International, to prepare a proposal for a training school for tour operators. JAL wants to know whether Burbank would be a good spot for its school. Burbank interests JAL but only if nearby entertainment facilities can be used for tour training. JAL also needs an advisory committee consisting, if possible, of representatives of the travel community and perhaps executives of other major airlines. The real problem is how to motivate these people to cooperate with JAL.
You’ve heard that NBC Studios in Burbank offers training seminars, guest speakers, and other resources for tour operators. You wonder whether Magic Mountain in Valencia would also be willing to cooperate with the proposed school. And you remember that Griffith Park is nearby and might make a good tour training spot. Before JAL will settle on Burbank as its choice, it wants to know if access to air travel is adequate. JAL’s management team is also concerned about available school building space. Moreover, JAL wants to know whether city officials in Burbank would be receptive to this tour training school proposal.
To guide your thinking and research, factor this problem into an outline with several areas to investigate. Further divide the problem into subproblems, phrasing each entry as a question. For example, Should the JAL tour training program be located in Burbank?
Using Secondary Sources Secondary sources can provide quite different information depending on your mode of inquiry.
Pick a business-related subject you want to know more about and run it through a search engine such as Google. Compare your results with Dogpile, a metasearch site. Write a short memo or e-mail message to your instructor explaining the differences in the search results. In your message describe what you have learned about the advantages and disadvantages of each search tool.
Developing Primary Data: Collaborative Survey The dining facilities on campus have again ignited a controversy among students but also faculty and staff. The students are mainly unhappy about what they perceive to be high prices, whereas professors and campus employees seem to want more healthful food choices. The dining facility managers claim their prices are competitive with outside eateries. They also point to a few available low-fat, high-fiber options, such as boxed salads and “lean” sandwiches.
You are one of several student representatives on the Campus Food Committee consisting of administrators and Associated Students staff. Associated Students is a for-profit campus organization that runs all dining facilities at the university. At your monthly meeting you are discussing several faculty, staff, and student complaints. The criticism seems to center on food pricing and its healthfulness. In teams of three to five, design a questionnaire to probe the opinions of faculty and staff to be distributed by the campuswide e-mail network or posted on the campus intranet. Learn which specific choices this particular population would like to see in campus cafeterias and how these options should be priced to be considered profitable by administrators. Investigate the price ranges for comparable food items off campus. As a team, write a memo for the Campus Food Committee comparing food choices and their cost on campus and outside. Be sure to consider how the results will be tabulated and interpreted.
Your instructor may ask you to complete this activity as a report assignment after you study Chapter 12. If so, write a report for the Campus Food Committee and be prepared to interpret your survey results. You will also be expected to issue recommendations to the committee.
Finding Secondary Data: Hot Trends in the Tech Industry Are you a member of the “thumb generation”? Can you work the keyboard of your cell phone or personal digital assistant faster than most people can speak? The term “thumb generation” was coined in South Korea and Japan and is applied to young people under 25 who furiously finger their handheld devices to text message, e-mail, and complete other electronic functions at lightning speeds.
More technological innovations are coming that are likely to transform our lives. WiMAX is a new wireless super technology that will cover entire cities at cable speeds. New-Field Communication (NFC) takes the Bluetooth technology a step further to connect cell phones and other devices. NFC is touted for its boundless commercial applications enabling Americans soon to complete many sales transactions by cell phone, as is already customary in Korea, Japan, and Finland. These and other trends are described in a BusinessWeek article titled “The Future of Tech.”24
You are one of several marketing interns at MarketNet Global, a worldwide e-commerce specialist. Your busy boss, Rick Rivera, wants to know more about the cutting-edge trends described in the BusinessWeek article he saw. He is particularly interested in learning whether they might be successfully used in selling and marketing. Individually or as a team, research one or several of these high-tech concepts. Chances are you will not find scholarly articles on these subjects because peer-reviewed publications take years to complete. Instead, rely on the Web and on electronic databases to find up-to-date information. If you use search engines, you will retrieve many forum and discussion board contributions as well. Examine them critically for authority and validity. In teams or individually, write an informative memo to Rick Rivera, complete with a short list of references in MLA or APA documentation style. Explain what each new trend is. Your instructor may ask you to complete this activity as a report assignment after you study Chapter 12. You could use your research to write a short informational memo report describing to Rick Rivera what your sources suggest the new trends may mean for the future of business, specifically e-commerce and online marketing.
Researching and Evaluating Data: Global Internet Access Out of nearly 700 million global Internet users, the United States is the country with the most online visitors in the world, followed by China, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, and South Korea, according to ComScore, a global Internet information provider.25 However, the United States does not even rank among the top 15 countries in average monthly hours spent online. Here much smaller countries rule, namely Israel, Finland, South Korea, the Netherlands, Taiwan, and Sweden. Other data analyzing which nations have the most connected populations suggest that Scandinavians rank high; the tiny country of Iceland is often cited as the top Internet presence per resident. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Internet access is very low in Africa, where less than 1 percent of the population is online. Chip maker AMD and scientists at MIT have independently announced plans to build and distribute low-cost computers to poor children in developing countries.
As an entry-level employee at chip maker AMD, you are part of a young team entrusted with the task of researching global Internet use and market saturation with computers. In other words, you are to examine access to computers and the Internet in a given population. Find ComScore’s World Metrix data and examine how they were collected. Are they credible? Do other reputable sources reference this survey? Retrieve other statistical information from the Internet or electronic databases that discuss online access and Internet use in relation to population size. How does the focus on absolute numbers as opposed to percentages of the population skew the outcome? What conclusions can be drawn from such information?
Write a memo to the head of the task force at AMD, Corinne Ardeau, about the challenges of interpreting such numeric data. In addition, Ms. Ardeau is looking for volunteers to research attempts by competitors and independent organizations (e.g., he United Nations, other corporations, and universities), to provide basic computing devices to developing countries. Write an informative memo to Ms. Ardeau listing your findings without comments or recommendations. Your instructor may ask you to complete this activity as an analytical report after you study Chapters 12 and 13.
California is home to the nation’s most diverse and valuable agricultural industry. Many of its crops are sold in Japanese and European markets where customers are extremely wary of genetically modified foods. Despite that fact, sources in the state capital are reporting that the biotech industry is actively seeking sponsors for a bill in the state legislature that would preempt the right of counties to ban genetically engineered crops. As an intern working for the Organic Consumers Association, the nation’s largest public interest group dedicated to a healthy and sustainable food system, your supervisor, Andrea Lopez, asked you to gather data about the dangers of genetically engineered crops. The organization plans to write a report to the state government about this issue.
Conduct a keyword search using three search engines on the Web. Select three articles you think would be most pertinent to the organization’s argument. Save them using the strategies for managing data, and create a bibliography. Conduct the same keyword search with ABI/INFORM or LexisNexis. Save the three most relevant articles, and add these items to your bibliography. In a short memo to Andrea Lopez, Director of Government Relations, summarize what you’ve found and describe its value. Attach the bibliography.
Identify the best graphics form to illustrate the following data.
a. Figures comparing the costs of cable, DSL, and satellite Internet service in ten major metropolitan areas of the United States for the past ten years (for a congressional investigation)
b. Figures showing the distribution of West Nile Virus in humans by state
c. Figures showing the process of delivering electricity to a metropolitan area
d. Data showing areas in the United States most likely to have earthquakes
e. Figures showing what proportion of every state tax dollar is spent on education, social services, transportation, debt, and other expenses
f. Data showing the academic, administrative, and operation divisions of a college, from the president to department chairs and division managers
g. Figures comparing the sales of PDAs (personal digital assistants), cell phones, and laptop computers over the past five years
h. Percentages showing the causes of forest fires (lightning, 73 percent; arson, 5 percent; campfires, 9 percent; and so on) in the Rocky Mountains
Drawing a Bar Chart
Prepare a bar chart comparing the tax rates of eight industrial countries in the world: Canada, 34 percent; France, 42 percent; Germany, 39 percent; Japan, 26 percent; Netherlands, 48 percent; Sweden, 49 percent; United Kingdom, 37 percent; United States, 28 percent. These figures represent a percentage of the gross domestic product for each country. The sources of the figures are the International Monetary Fund and the Japanese Ministry of Finance. Arrange the entries logically. Write two titles: a talking title and a descriptive title. What should be emphasized in the chart and title?
Drawing a Line Chart
Prepare a line chart showing the sales of Sidekick Athletic Shoes, Inc., for these years: 2008, $6.7 million; 2007, $5.4 million; 2006, $3.2 million; 2005, $2.1 million; 2004, $2.6 million; 2003, $3.6 million. In the chart title, highlight the trend you see in the data.
Avoiding Huge Credit Card Debt for College Students College students represent a new push for credit card companies. An amazing 56 percent of students carried a credit card in the most recent study of undergraduate card use,27 and the number undoubtedly continues to skyrocket. Credit cards are a contributing factor when students graduate with an average of $20,000 debt. Because they can’t buy cars, rent homes, or purchase insurance, graduates with big credit debt see a bleak future for themselves.
A local newspaper plans to run a self-help story about college credit cards. The editor asks you, a young part-time reporter, to prepare a memo with information that could be turned into an article. The article would be targeted to parents of students who are about to leave for college. What can parents do to help students avoid sinking deeply into credit card debt?
Using ABI/INFORM, Factiva, or LexisNexis and the Web, locate basic information about student credit card options. In a memo discuss shared credit cards and other options. Your goal is to be informative, not to reach conclusions or make recommendations. Use one or more of the techniques discussed in this chapter to track your sources. Address your memo to Barbara Hagler, editor.
When are tables the most appropriate analytical tool and tabulating technique? What types of data are best presented in tables?
Calculate the mean, median, and mode for these figures: 3, 4, 4, 4, 10.
What is data tabulation? Provide an original example. Why is tabulation necessary for a researcher who has collected large amounts of data?
Why is a decision matrix a valuable managerial tool?
What are the two most widely read sections of a report?
How do conclusions differ from recommendations?
What are the characteristics of the best recommendations?
Name five methods for organizing report data. Be prepared to discuss each.
What three devices can report writers use to prevent readers from getting lost in the text?
How do business writers organize most informational reports, and what can writers assume about the audience?
Describe periodic reports and what they generally contain.
What should a progress report include?
When is the indirect pattern appropriate for justification/ recommendation reports?
What is a feasibility report? Are such reports generally intended for internal or external audiences?
What is a yardstick report?
What are the best uses of mean, median, and mode?
Researchers can draw various conclusions from a set of data. How do you know how to shape conclusions and recommendations?
Why is audience analysis particularly important in making report recommendations?
Should all reports be organized so that they follow the sequence of investigation—that is, a description of the initial problem, an analysis of the issues, data collection, data analysis, and conclusions? Why or why not?
What are the major differences between informational and analytical reports?
Like other professionals—for instance, physicians, psychotherapists, and lawyers—consultants must follow a professional code of ethics. Consultants may have to issue recommendations that will not be acceptable to the organization that hired them and will pay them. Discuss the risks of “bending” the truth for fear of displeasing or losing a client.
Tabulation and Interpretation of Survey Results Your business communication class at South Bay College was asked by the college bookstore manager, Harry Locke, to conduct a survey. Concerned about the environment, Locke wants to learn students’ reactions to eliminating plastic bags, of which 45,000 are given away annually by the bookstore. Students answered questions about a number of proposals, resulting in the following raw data:
For major purchases the bookstore should:
In groups of four or five, do the following:
a. Convert the data into a table with a descriptive title. Arrange the items in a logical sequence.
b. How could these survey data be cross-tabulated? Would cross tabulation serve any purpose?
c. Given the conditions of this survey, name at least three conclusions that could be drawn from the data.
d. Prepare three to five recommendations to be submitted to Mr. Locke. How could they be implemented?
e. Role-play a meeting in which the recommendations and implementation plan are presented to Mr. Locke. One student plays the role of Mr. Locke; the remaining students play the role of thepresenters.
Distinguishing Between Conclusions and Recommendations A study of red light traffic violations produced the following findings: Red light traffic violations were responsible for more than 25,000 crashes in one state. Crashes from running red lights decreased by 10 percent in areas using camera programs to cite offenders. Two out of seven local governments studied showed a profit from the programs; the others lost money.
Based on the preceding facts, indicate whether the following statements are conclusions or recommendations:
a. Red light violations are dangerous offenses.
b. Red light cameras are an effective traffic safety tool.
c. Local governments should be allowed to implement red light camera programs.
d. Although red light camera programs are expensive, they prevent crashes and are, therefore, worthwhile.
e. The city of Centerville should not implement a red light program because of the program’s cost.
f. Red light programs are not necessarily profitable for local governments.
Using Decision Matrices You want to buy a low-cost laptop for your college work and consider price the most important feature.
Study Figure and change the weights in Table 2 to reflect your emphasis on low price, to which you will assign a factor of 10 because it is twice as important to you as unit weight, which receives a factor of 5. The hard drive is likewise secondary to you, so you give it a 5 also. Last, you change battery life to a factor of 7 from 10 because it is less important than price, but more important than unit weight and hard drive size. Calculate the new scores. Which low-budget computer wins this time?
Buying a Car: Create a Decision Matrix David, an outrigger canoe racer, needs to buy a new car. He wants a vehicle that will carry his disassembled boat and outrigger. At the same time he will need to travel long distances on business. His passion is soft-top sports cars, but he is also concerned about gas mileage. These four criteria are impossible to find in one vehicle.
David has the following choices:
● Station wagon
● SUV with or without a sun roof
● Four-door sedan, a high-miles-per-gallon “family car”
● Sports car, convertible
He wants to consider the following criteria:
● Ability to carry cargo such as a canoe
● Fuel efficiency
● Comfort over long distances
● Good looks and fun
● Quality build/manufacturer’s reputation
Follow the steps outlined in Figure to determine an assessment scale and to assign a score to each feature. Then, consider which weights are probably most important to David, given his needs. Calculate the totals to find the vehicle that’s most suitable for David.
In groups of three to five, discuss how the findings in the following reports could be best organized. Consider these methods: time, component, importance, criteria, and convention.
a. A monthly sales report submitted to the sales manager.
b. A progress report submitted six months into the process of planning the program for your organization’s convention.
c. A report comparing three locations for a fast-food company’s new restaurant. The report presents data on real estate values, construction costs, traffic patterns, competition, state taxes, labor availability, and population demographics.
d. A report describing the history of the development of dwarf and spur apple trees, starting with the first genetic dwarfs discovered about 100 years ago and progressing to today’s grafted varieties on dwarfing rootstocks.
e. An informational brochure for job candidates that describes your company’s areas of employment: accounting, finance, information systems, operations management, marketing, production, and computer-aided design.
f. A recommendation report to be submitted to management presenting four building plans to improve access to your building, in compliance with federal regulations. The plans range considerably in feasibility and cost.
g. An informational report describing a company’s expansion plans in South America, Europe, Australia, and Southeast Asia.
h. An employee performance appraisal submitted annually.
Evaluating Headings and Titles
Identify the following report headings and titles as functional, talking, or combination. Discuss the usefulness and effectiveness of each.
b. Survey Shows Greater Customer Satisfaction
d. How to Install a Spam Filter
e. Case History: Focusing on Customer Service
f. Recommendations: Solving Our Applicant Tracking Problem
g. Comparing Costs of Hiring Exempt and Nonexempt Employees
Writing a Survey: Studying Employee Use of Instant Messaging Instant messaging (IM) is a popular way to exchange messages in real time. It offers the convenience of telephone conversations and e-mail. Best of all, it allows employees to contact anyone in the world while retaining a written copy of the conversation—without a whopping telephone bill! But instant messaging is risky for companies. They may lose trade secrets or confidential information over insecure lines. They also may be liable if inappropriate material is exchanged. Moreover, IM opens the door to viruses that can infect a company’s entire computer system.
Your boss just read an article stating that 40 percent of companies now use IM for business and up to 90 percent of employees use instant messaging WITHOUT their manager’s knowledge or authorization. She asks you to prepare a survey of your 48-member staff to learn how many are using IM. She wants to know what type of IM software they have downloaded, how many hours a day they spend on IM, what the advantages of IM are, and so forth. The goal is not to identify those using or abusing IM. Instead, the goal is to learn when, how, and why employees use instant messaging so that appropriate policies can be designed.
Use the Web or an electronic database to learn more about instant messaging. Then prepare a short employee survey (see Figure). Include an appropriate introduction that explains the survey and encourages a response. Should you ask for names on the survey? How can you encourage employees to return the forms?
Your instructor may wish to expand this survey into a report by having you produce fictitious survey results, analyze the findings, draw conclusions, and make recommendations.
Investigative Report: Ensuring Fair Employment Practices Abroad Nike’s image took a big hit a few years ago, when the company became associated with sweatshop conditions in Asian factories that supplied its shoes and apparel. Other sports and garment companies also became targets of criticism and campus boycotts in the United States for their ties to sweatshop labor. Since then, American companies have tried to investigate and end the abuses.
However, oversight is difficult, and Chinese factories dodge the labor auditors sponsored by American retail chains and manufacturers. To complicate matters, China is the largest supplier of American imports, to the tune of $280 billion annually. U.S. consumers have come to expect inexpensive goods—athletic shoes, clothing, and electronic gadgets. The downward price pressure may be prompting the Chinese suppliers to cut corners and to ignore the fair labor regulations of American companies. According to BusinessWeek, U.S. corporations are struggling with imposing “Western labor standards on a nation that lacks real labor unions and a meaningful rule of law.”
Investigate the efforts of the Fair Labor Association, a coalition of 20 retailers and apparel manufacturers, such as Nike, Adidas, Nordstrom, and Eddie Bauer. The problem is not confined to the garment industry; violations also occur in offshore suppliers producing household appliances, computers, and electronics. Explore the types of abuses and the obstacles to reform. Then recommend actions that could make offshore factories play by the rules. You can start by visiting the Fair Labor Association’s Web site: www.fairlabor.org/.
Justification/Recommendation Report: Improving Greenhouse Market’s Service You are a recently hired manager for Greenhouse Market, a highend fast-food restaurant that has been in business for three years.
The restaurant specializes in a wide selection of quality “deli-style” sandwiches, desserts, and coffees. The restaurant’s owner, Kate Lilly, tells you that the volume of business, especially at lunch hour, has increased considerably lately.
After your first month on the job, you notice that, because of the increased volume, the method of delivering orders to customers seems to be inadequate. At present, the ordering system consists of the following:
(a) The customer’s order and table number are recorded by counter staff on a ticket;
(b) After the customer pays, the ticket is given to the sandwich makers, who complete the order;
(c) One of the counter staff then takes the order to the customer’s table. Coffee and desserts are also brought to the customer’s table. Additional beverages are located in a refrigerated display case, where customers help themselves. You notice that three counter staff work with one cash register, and two sandwich makers are on duty.
You bring the problem to Kate’s attention, and she responds by saying, “As business increases, one must keep up with the times and continually assess ways to do business better.” She asks you to help solve the problem by analyzing how similar businesses handle their service during lunch hour. You begin by selecting three fast-food restaurants similar to Greenhouse Market. You observe each restaurant during its lunch hour to determine its serving techniques. You also decide to determine the amount of time it takes for a customer to receive an order relative to Greenhouse Market. Presently, the average time it takes for a customer to receive an order at Greenhouse Market is 4.6 minutes. The following is a rough account of your observations.
The Lame Duck
● Limited menu selection
● Orders are taken using an electronic system that includes the customer’s number
● Customers pay immediately
● Customers pick up their orders after their numbers have been called and retrieve their own beverages
● Each sandwich maker is assigned a different task
● Four counter employees at four registers; three sandwich makers
● Average time a customer waits to receive an order: 2.7 minutes
● Limited menu selection
● Order takers call out the menu item as the order is taken
● Tickets are used to inform sandwich makers of extras such as cheese, mayo, etc.
● Counter employees serve beverages
● Customers pay immediately
● Three sandwich makers make each sandwich in assembly-line fashion
● Customers wait at the counter to pick up their orders
● One counter employee at one register; three sandwich makers
● Average time a customer waits to receive an order: 2.3 minutes
Brooklyn New York Bagels
● Limited menu selection
● Tickets are used to record the menu selection; customers pay immediately
● Food and beverages are brought to the customer’s table
● Four employees are assigned different tasks: one takes the customer’s order, another makes the food, another delivers the order
● Average time a customer waits to receive an order: 3.5 minutes
Now it is up to you to sift through the data you have collected and draw conclusions. In a short memo report to Kate Lilly present your findings, discuss your conclusions, and make recommendations. You may want to present the data using visual aids, but you also realize you must emphasize the important findings by presenting them in an easy-to-read list
Justification/Recommendation Report: Improving Register Efficiency at CircuitCentral CircuitCentral is a high-volume market-leading retailer of consumer electronics and appliances. It has established a reputation for outstanding customer service, selection, and prices. As a supervisor at one of the store’s busiest locations, you must ensure that the checkout and customer service lanes operate efficiently. To make your job easier and to ensure consistency in every store, CircuitCentral has established an action plan to prevent long waiting times at registers.
The plan includes assigning backup cashiers from other departments for each shift. Additionally, remote registers are located in several departments to reduce customer flow at the registers nearest the exit. CircuitCentral’s goal is to achieve at least a 35 percent “excellent” response rating from customers. Even the best plans can go awry, however; and this usually happens during holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. With the Labor Day weekend only two months away, you want to avoid the occasional gridlock you encountered last Memorial Day.
Customer Survey Data
To gather information from customers, you decide to tabulate responses to questions from comment cards submitted during the last month. You are particularly interested in the time customers spent in the checkout lines. Here are the results of 320 customer comment cards:
To gather additional information, you conduct a survey of 20 staff members, including cashiers, customer service representatives, and salespeople. Here are the results of your survey:
Which of the following has caused a delay at a register?
1. Soft tag or CD case removal 64%
2. Approval or override 86
3. Register malfunction 3
4. Incomplete paperwork 7
5. Product registration 13 (e.g., Internet service providers)
6. Employee error 16
Figures do not total 100 percent because of multiple answers.
Finally, you selected ten registers at random (five near the front entrance, three in customer service, and one each in the TV and Digital Imaging departments) and observed them for five minutes, taking notes. You chose Saturday for these observations because of the typically higher volume of business. Following is a summary of your observations:
● During all five of your visits to registers near the front entrance, you noticed that, although a manager was often needed for a check approval or override, which caused delays, employee confusion about procedures and the registers themselves seemed to account for the majority of delays. You also observed five instances in which an employee needed to go to another cash register to remove security devices. Finally, you noticed several customers in line with satellite TV and wireless equipment.
● In both of your visits to the service desk, one employee was operating one of three available registers. For this reason several customers were left waiting in line for service. During one visit, you observed that when a product needed to be certified by a technician before it could be exchanged, the employee had to walk to the technical department to locate a technician, causing further delay.
● During your visits to the TV and Digital Imaging departments, you saw that floor personnel were overwhelmed with customers asking questions about products. In other words, no one seemed to be available to handle transactions at the open registers. Cheating a bit, you walked over to the kitchen appliance department, where you saw few customers but several employees in the area.
After carefully comparing customer and employee perceptions, present your findings in a memo report to Pat Diggins, general manager, CircuitCentral. In your report, include as much information from the tables as possible, but present it in an easy-to-understand way. What conclusions can you draw from your findings? What recommendations will you make to Ms. Diggins to ensure a successful Labor Day weekend?
Yardstick Report: Comparing Clothing Retailers’ Web Sites You work for the Marketing Department of Urban Jungle Apparel, an ascendant specialty retailer offering clothing, accessories, and personal care products for trendy men and women. Although Urban Jungle has a Web presence, it wants to update its site based on what online competitors are doing and what customers think is important about Web sites in general. Currently, Urban Jungle’s Web site contains little more than online advertisements about its products and a store locator. You decide to analyze and evaluate SnazzyDuds. com and Zoom2.com, two companies with Web sites in direct competition with Urban Jungle. Your analysis is based on the following criteria:
(d) Customer service,
(e) Design, and
(f) Sales promotions.
You also conduct a survey of 150 shoppers to discover their online shopping habits and preferences. Following are the results of your research.
Speed: The pages, including the enlarged pop-up images of clothing items, load fast, and the order process is smooth and uncomplicated.
Convenience:. The site is convenient for finding the right size, fit, and care instructions. Nearly any size is available. Additionally, if customers are not satisfied with an item, they may return it free of charge by mail or to any SnazzyDuds store in the United States. One drawback is that SnazzyDuds.com customers may find a product only by looking at images or lists; in other words, the site has no search function for locating a product by item or number.
Privacy/Security: The site is secure, using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology. Purchases up to $50 are covered.
Customer Service. Overall, the service is very good to excellent. Customers may contact customer service via e-mail or use a toll-free service line any time of the day. In an experiment, two calls were made and one e-mail was sent to evaluate customer service. In general, service reps were friendly and helpful, responding politely and quickly to questions about locating products. Additional services include gift wrapping, delivery, and shopping by phone.
Design. The site is very well designed and is user friendly. The home page is uncluttered and without distractions. Customers simply click either the Men or Women link to access subsequent pages. Once they have chosen a category, customers are linked to a well-organized collection of merchandise.
Promotions. SnazzyDuds.com’s “All-Year-Long Sale” section is available to anyone. Although returns cost nothing, free shipping is offered only periodically. Customers who sign up receive e-mail specials twice a month.
Speed. The ordering process is slow. Because the site is set up in an illogical fashion with both men’s and women’s clothing displayed on the same pages, finding an item is time consuming.
Convenience. Zoom2.com has a search-by-item number feature. It also offers care instructions as well as a wide-ranging size chart. If customers are unhappy with an item, they must return it by mail. Zoom2 stores will not accept returns of Web items.
Privacy/Security. The site is secure, using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology. It also promotes itself as a “VeriSign” secure site. Purchases up to $50 are covered.
Customer Service. Service is fair. Customers may contact customer service via e-mail or use a toll-free service line any time of the day for questions. In an experiment, three calls were made and one e-mail was sent to evaluate customer service. Two of the calls required an average of 45 seconds for a rep to reach the phone. Additional services include gift wrapping, delivery, and shopping by phone.
Design. For a first-time customer, the home page is somewhat confusing. It has too many options from which to choose. Beyond the home page, the design improves, with clearly defined categories.
Promotions. Zoom2.com offers a new promotion every week. Repeat customers also receive an e-mail promotion twice a month, which can include free shipping and a percentage off the total purchase.
1. Have you ever purchased anything online? Yes: 39 No: 111
2. If you answered yes to the preceding question, which of the following have you ordered? Please check all that apply.
Cosmetics: 32 Clothing and accessories: 41
Flowers: 30 CDs, recorded music: 90
3. How many purchases have you made on the Internet in the past year?
3–4: 35 5–9: 49 10–24: 42 25 or more: 24
4. What elements of online shopping are most important to you? Please check all that apply.
Speed: 135 Promotions: 120
Web design: 60 Security: 105
Convenience: 105 Customer service: 83
5. What kinds of services do you expect when you shop online? Please check all that apply.
Free shipping: 140 Sales: 120
Free return: 90 Promotions: 65
Analyze the data you have available. What data could be presented in graphs or charts? What graphic forms should be used to best illustrate the most important data? In a memo report to your supervisor, Terry O’Donnell, director of marketing, include objective conclusions based on your analysis. Also submit recommendations regarding the steps Urban Jungle should take when upgrading its Web site. If your instructor directs, prepare visual aids to accompany your yardstick report.
Feasibility Report: Can Rainbow Precision Instruments Afford a Children’s Center Rainbow Precision Instruments (RPI) is a $60 million manufacturer of specialty gauges for the aerospace industry, mainly flight deck or cockpit instruments, located in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. To accommodate its workforce of approximately 55 percent female employees, the company has been operating a state-of-the art Children’s Center. More than a child-care center, the facility is an award-winning and well-equipped learning center that covers two shifts, from 7:00 a.m. until 10:30 p.m.
Such innovation and extensive coverage are not cheap. A recent overhaul of the facility cost $150,000, and the annual budget to instruct and care for 145 children reached $300,000. The Children’s Center provides a state-certified curriculum taught by professional preschool faculty. The children also receive their meals at the facility. At its inception, the costly investment seemed fully justified. However, the number of employee children started slowly dropping until fewer than 10 percent of enrollees were children of RPI workers. The company responded by opening the Center to surrounding communities, where quality day care is scarce.
Year 2000 2005 2007
Percent of employee 55 percent 25 percent 10 percent
children at the Center
Instead of raising the tuition to market levels to recoup some of its investment, RPI continues to subsidize the Center annually with approximately $200,000, not differentiating between Rainbow employees and parents from the local area. The annual tuition is $696 per child.
To make matters worse, RPI has suffered financial setbacks and is currently losing about $2.5 million annually. Finding alternatives for looking after the few remaining company children would seem less expensive than keeping the Center open. RPI has unsuccessfully pursued other options, such as selling the Children’s Center or finding an independent operator to run it.
From the available evidence, decide whether it is advisable for the company to close the Children’s Center or keep it open. If you choose to keep it open, you will need to argue for some substantial changes in company operations. Your memo report will announce the decision, describe the problem, and discuss both the advantages and disadvantages of your proposal. Last, your document will focus on costs and the time frame needed to implement your decision.
eBuyer Group, a leading consumer and research firm, has been asked to study alternative ordering methods for Gino’s Pizza, a 30-unit delivery and takeout chain. Fast-food franchises across the nation have become increasingly interested in using the Internet to supplement traditional takeout and delivery options. In fact, several prominent national pizza chains have already adopted, or are testing, online ordering. Well-known examples include Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, and Domino’s. Another more recently explored option is interactive television (iTV). Gino Vanilli, CEO of Gino’s Pizza, wants to know whether the chain should continue using its conventional phone-ordering/delivery method or adopt one of the two alternatives. The following represents your preliminary research.
Questions Yes No
1. Have you ordered pizza for delivery within,
the last month? 799 226
2. Would you consider ordering pizza online,
as opposed to calling? 133 892
3. Would you consider ordering pizza using,
your television set as opposed to calling? 665 360
As a consultant for eBuyer Group, study the preceding information. You have several options for the type of report you could prepare, based on the research data. Choose from among the following options, and address your report to Mr. Gino Vanilli, CEO of Gino’s Pizza. Use at least one visual aid.
a. You could write a yardstick report establishing criteria and then comparing and contrasting the various forms of pizza ordering and delivery. You should recommend the most efficient and costeffective solution. Decide whether to organize the report directly or indirectly.
b. You have heard from a reliable Gino’s Pizza company insider that Mr. Vanilli privately strongly favors the iTV option. However, you find this option risky because iTV is still in its infancy and its future reception by consumers seems shaky. Prepare a feasibility report discussing the viability of the iTV option for Gino’s Pizza. As an ethical consultant, you are beholden to the truth. If you disagree with the client, you need to find a way to dish out the unpleasant findings gently. If iTV is an appropriate option in your view, then your approach could be direct.
c. Prepare a justification/recommendation report that studies the several ordering options and proposes the most appropriate one for Mr. Vanilli’s business. Although you cannot discuss the specific costs of each proposal, you can draw conclusions and make practical recommendations based on the facts presented here. What items are most important to show visually?
Are proposals internal or external documents?
What is the difference between solicited and unsolicited proposals?
What are the six principal components of an informal letter proposal?
How is a formal proposal different from an informal proposal?
Why does an entrepreneur need to write a business plan?
Name eight components of typical business plans.
What should a business plan mission statement include and how long should it be?
Why are formal reports written in business? Give an original example of a business-related formal report.
What is a letter or memorandum of transmittal?
How long should a typical executive summary be?
What should be included in the executive summary of a formal report?
What should be included in the introduction to a formal report?
What should the writer strive to do in the body of a formal report?
What is the purpose of references or works cited?
In your view, what are six of the most important tips for the writer of a formal report? Explain each of your choices.
Why write long, formal reports to busy readers in business, given how much time, effort, and expense such documents devour?
Why are proposals important to many businesses?
Compare and contrast proposals and business plans.
How do formal reports differ from informal reports?
Discuss the three phases of the writing process in relation to formal reports. What activities take place in each phase?
How can a team of writers ensure that each member shoulders an equal or fair amount of the work on an extensive writing project, such as a formal proposal or report?
Proposals: Solving a Workplace Problem in an Unsolicited Informal Proposal The ability to spot problems before they turn into serious risks is prized by most managers. Draw on your internship and work experience. Can you identify a problem that could be solved with a small to moderate financial investment? Look for issues such as missing lunch or break rooms for staff; badly needed health initiatives such as gyms or sports club memberships; low-gas-mileage, high-emission company vehicles; lack of recycling efforts, and so forth.
Discuss with your instructor the workplace problem that you have identified. Make sure you choose a relatively weighty problem that can nevertheless be lessened or eliminated with a minor expenditure. Be sure to include a cost-benefit analysis. Address your unsolicited letter or memo proposal to your current or former boss and copy your instructor.
Think Like an Entrepreneur Perhaps you have fantasized about one day owning your own company, or maybe you have already started a business. Proposals are offers to a very specific audience whose business you are soliciting. Think of a product or service that you like or know much about. On the Web or in electronic databases, research the market so that you understand going rates, prices, and costs. Search the Small Business Administration’s Web site (www.sba.gov/) for valuable tips on how to launch and manage a business.
Choose a product or service you would like to offer to a particular audience, such as a window-cleaning business, an online photography business, a new vehicle on the U.S. market, or a new European hair care line. Discuss products and services as well as target audiences with your instructor. Write a letter proposal promoting your chosen product or service.
Why is it important to know your audience and purpose before you start planning your oral presentation?
In preparing an oral presentation, you can reduce your fears and lay a foundation for a professional performance by focusing on what five areas?
In the introduction of an oral presentation, you can establish your credibility by using what two methods?
Which part of a speech—the introduction, body, or conclusion— will listeners most remember?
List six techniques for creating effective imagery in a presentation. Be prepared to discuss each.
Name three ways for a speaker to use verbal signposts in a presentation. Illustrate each.
Why are visual aids particularly useful to inexperienced speakers?