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Creating value from a commodity process : a case study of a call center

By Jimmy C. Huang, Susan Newell, Bradley Poulson and Robert Galliers


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to conceptualize the unique value that can be created by performing a commodity process, in this case call handling at a call center, as a means of challenging the prevalent assumption that an organization should differentiate between the management of a core competence and a commodity process. Design/methodology/approach – An inductive case study is conducted to examine the strategic planning and management of a call center in one of the largest retailers headquartered in the UK. Semi‐structured interviews, informal dialogue, on‐site observation and documentation were the four data collection methods that we used. Findings – Based on the findings derived from the study, this study proposes the notion of a “differentiated commodity” to illustrate that a commodity process, such as handling customers' complaints and enquiries using standard call center technologies, can be significantly beneficial to the business, if differentiation was embedded into the architecture and management of the business process. Originality/value – The distinction between core competencies and commodity processes has become one of the key aspects in shaping a manager's decision making. The findings are vital not only in challenging such an assumption, but also in providing an explanation as to how strategic value can be generated by performing commodity processes, which is often under‐estimated

Topics: HD
Publisher: 'Emerald'
Year: 2007
DOI identifier: 10.1108/17410390710772687
OAI identifier:
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