I am on vacation this week, and will be going back to the vault for some ‘oldies but goodies’ posts. I hope you enjoy them: I’ll be back in a week or so with new material.
Outsourcing loyalty. Think about the absurdity in that phrase.
Oh, we know what it means, all right. There are businesses whose specialty is executing frequent-customer programs. They handle strategy, research, program design, even fulfillment. It’s no different from any other outsourced business process.
But still. Think about the contortion of language implicit in combining those two words. Loyalty—that emotional quality that binds one person to another, to a clan, a country, or a set of ideals—can be mechanically crafted by a third party for hire. And we still call it loyalty.
Googling “outsource loyalty” turns up a few entries, like Ernex, which offers "a complete real-time points management solution for loyalty program or member-based loyalty databases." Cap Gemini, a major global IT firm, has a website that advertises its “loyalty factory.”
Hey, why not? You can outsource confidants (they’re called shrinks). You can outsource sex (the oldest profession). You can outsource phone calls (“your call means a lot to us…please hang on the line”). Why not loyalty?
But in our rush to turn business functions into business processes, then modularize and outsource them, we occasionally overdo it. A major casualty is the faux language of relationships. “Loyalty” programs are but one example.
Another oxymoron is “human capital.” Note which word became the adjective, and which stayed the noun.
“Relationship capital,” its close cousin, goes it one better. It isn’t just people that are financially fungible. Ditto for the relationships between people. Long live love. If it pays, that is.
“Customer focus,” as a practical matter, is often oxymoronic. It amounts to “inspect, dissect and reject” so that you maximize customer profitability per unit of financial investment. Customer profitabilty to the seller, that is; not the customer’s own profitability. Vultures are focused in that sort of way. If you’re a customer, "customer focus" can feel like you’re in the crosshairs of somebody else’s scope.
How about you? Can you add to the list? Got any oxymorons about the human dimension in business? Share them here; enquiring minds want to know!