The worst idea in the history of business

August 25, 2008


So I’m off to Joel Spolsky’s Business Of Software conference in Boston the first week of September, and I’m attending a table session on “Should you outsource customer care?”

What sort of person is going to say “Yes,” to that question?

The very idea that getting other people to look after your customer is so alien to me I just hardly know what to think of it. Your relationship with your customers is just so fundamental to your business that getting someone else to handle is like crazy to me. As if you could possibly pay someone enough to care more about your customers than you do.

But when times get tough, Support’s an easy target. It’s so tempting to look over at those Support team salaries, and pretend they don’t relate to revenue.

Ignoring higher-order relationships is disastrous though. How many environmental catastrophes were caused because people couldn’t see past first-order implications? Likewise, the inability to see the second- and third-order implications of cutting down on personalized care leads to the idea of outsourcing your customer care.

This is why I nominate outsourcing customer care as the worst idea in the history of business. It represents the whole idea that you can treat your customers as components, rather than as individuals. It’s seductive, because that many individuals can be scary to deal with. But maybe a little courage isn’t such a bad thing.

I have a feeling I won’t be alone in this opinion at the conference, but I think it’ll be an interesting discussion nonetheless.


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