Research Summary

Managing the Operating Role of Customers

by Frances X. Frei


Customers in operating roles introduce considerable variability into the production environment including differences in the demands they impose on the environment and the unpredictability of those demands. When customers are the source of production variability, the service experience can rely heavily on accommodating that variability. However, operational efficiency typically demands reducing variability. This research explores the challenge of managing the tradeoff between operational efficiency and service value, providing prescriptions for how to mitigate its effects through influencing customer behavior. See HBS 606-032 for a detailed discussion of managing the operating role of customers.