Catalogers of the Year
One of Eichinger’s future challenges is the development of a year-round business. With most of its sales coming in the fourth quarter and most business functions handled in-house, Museum Tour grows from 17 employees in the off season to about 125 in season.
To balance the business, Eichinger hopes to grow the school market. While the catalog is printed only once per year, alternate covers are used on catalogs sent to teachers. Many products also are being made available in bulk quantities, such as teachers might buy for their classrooms.
Equally difficult when so much of her business focuses on the holidays, she notes, is maintaining a high level of customer service. Although Eichinger and her team have considered outsourcing the call center function, they’ve rejected it because they want to maintain a greater level of control.
Instead of outsourcing, Eichinger’s operations team has become more selective in its hiring process, raising the educational requirement for customer service representatives. And more time is dedicated to training reps on the catalog’s educational objectives.
Eichinger’s passion for education extends beyond the reach of the catalog. She recently led the formation of a nonprofit organization called the Informal Education Research Corp. Focusing on how families use educational toys, games and products in the home, the organization seeks to gain a better understanding of how parents teach and children learn.
Still in the beginning stages, Eichinger hopes the organization will develop best practices for educational products manufacturers. For example, she wants to know the best way to provide instructions in a science kit, so parents easily can understand and communicate the objective to their children.
“It’s this constant passion and realization of the need I think we have in the United States to further our children’s education in a time when school budgets are being cut that keeps us going,” says Eichinger.