• In this paper we focus on the growing trend toward outsourcing customer contact and argue that particular care is required to ensure that the customer relationship is not, in effect, itself outsourced. Outsourced customer contact centers (CCCs), like their internal counterparts, are a key channel for interaction with customers, acting as important transactional, service, and point of sales channels. However, the danger and unintended consequence, particularly in the case of outsourced CCCs, is their greater potential to lead to a weakening of the ‘connective tissue’ between the firm and its customers. The ‘voice of the customer’ can become muted or lost to decision-makers and strategists within the firm, and important organizational learning dissipates. This can result in a negative spiral of ‘organizational unlearning’, and potential disintermediation of the customer relationship itself. The authors explore this phenomenon, and suggest strategies to ensure both that such ‘organizational unlearning’ is guarded against, and that a more thoughtful analysis of the end benefits is undertaken from the outset.

Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.