The word �outsourcing� surely rings many bells. With the beginning of the deregulation era in transportation in 1996, companies underscored their efforts to streamline operations and focus on what they considered to be their core businesses. Everything else could be contracted out. Logistical functions like transportation and warehousing were some of the first to go. In many respects, and considering the quest for quality of the 1990s as a reference, we are going back to square one, where cost concerns supersede our drive for quality. Call centers are not an exception. At first, outsourcing this activity seemed to be a good money-saving idea. My first encounter with outside, �empowered� customer service care came when I was being billed in error � overbilled every time, of course � by my wireless phone provider. The last time I called, the customer service representative answered to my exasperated request to talk to a supervisor with a self-important, �Sir, I don�t HAVE a supervisor.� So long for outsourced entrepreneurship. Such similar experience with other, unrelated companies is a common occurrence today, as many of you may have noticed. These are reflective of the climate of the customer �care� interface today, where the customers in general are becoming frustrated by either dead-ended calls or rude and inefficient representatives. This feels worse because we grew accustomed to the excellent customer care that was provided until recently, when this function was in-house. Certainly, the �the higher they fly the harder they fall� saying applies in this case.
    There are some moments when the loyalty of a customer is going to be decided. Some call these moments of truth (MOTs). There are three instances when it is necessary that those who are representing our company do it in a professional way; they are the sales representative that closes the sale, the driver who delivers the product and the customer service representative that could be the last chance to shower the customer with exquisite consideration. It is unthinkable (at least for now) to consider sales as a candidate for outsourcing. In regards to transportation, the parcel delivery companies understand this fact, and their delivery drivers� professionalism reflects positively on us. Yet many companies are missing the boat when it comes to call center strategy. Target customer service levels cannot be effective without the former. We predict that, in the long run, customer care is going back home, where it belongs. As with anything else in the supply chain, when you are not adding value you are adding cost (including the cost of lost sales).
    Yes, now I have a different wireless provider.
    James U. Carvallo is a lecturer at Cal Poly Pomona and president of Vector Associates. For more information, you can contact him at