Customers as Competitors

If self-service customers can be viewed as resources of the firm, or as partial employees, self-service customers could in some cases partially perform the service or perform the entire service for themselves and not need the provider at all. Customers thus in a sense are competitors of the companies that supply the service. Whether to produce a service for themselves (internal exchange)—for example, home maintenance, car repair—or have someone else provide the service for them (external exchange) is a common dilemma for customers.

 Similar internal versus external exchange decisions are made by organizations. Firms frequently choose to outsource service activities such as payroll, data processing, research, accounting, maintenance, and facilities management. They find that it is advantageous to focus on their core businesses and leave these essential support services to others with greater expertise. Alternatively, a firm may decide to stop purchasing services externally and bring the service production process in-house.

 Whether a household or a firm chooses to produce a particular service for itself or contract externally for the service depends on a variety of factors. A proposed model of internal/external exchange suggests that such decisions depend on the following:

a)    Expertise capacity

b)   Resource capacity

c)    Time capacity

d)   Economic rewards

e)    Psychic rewards

f)     Trust

g)    Control

The important thing to remember is that in many service scenaries customers can and do choose to fully or partially produce the service themselves. Thus, in addition to recognizing that customers can be productive resources and co-creators of quality and value, organizations also need to recognize the customer’s role as a potential customer.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

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