On Outsourcing Work – To Customers

We’re all familiar with the phenomenon of outsourcing work to foreign companies. But there’s also been a great deal of outsourcing work to customers. Often enough, this is a good thing: the self-service layout of a modern supermarket offers more freedom than an old-fashioned grocery counter, where you have to ask for things. It seems easier to pump your own gas at a gas station than to wait for an attendant, and people are increasingly happy to use a self-service kiosk at an airport instead of standing in line for a check-in agent. But you can only outsource so much work before alienating your customers. And in retail stinting on employees doesn’t actually save you money. It just gets you less for less.

These comments in The New Yorker are part of James Surowiecki’s reflectoins on a Harvard Business Review study by Zeynep Ton. Ton studied the relationship between labor cost and profit in retail. It appears that over the long term the results are not only counter intuitive but counter to much current practice.
Via Boing Boing