Jessie Gruman, PhD
First published 4/06/11 on the Center for Advancing Health blog.
The outsourcing of work by businesses to the cheapest available workers has received a lot of attention in recent years. It has largely escaped notice, however, that the new labor force isn’t necessarily located in Southeast Asia, but is often found here at home and is virtually free. It is us, using our laptops and smart phones to perform more and more functions once carried out by knowledgeable salespeople and service reps.
This was particularly salient to me this week: I spent an hour online browsing, comparing prices, reading customer reviews and filling out the required billing and shipping information to get a great deal on a new lamp. An airline would charge me 99 cents to talk to a person but provides information for free online. Calls to Amtrak to make train reservations are routinely answered with a message that the wait to talk to an agent is 30 minutes, but that I can book travel myself – plus get better deals – if I do it online. My bank has a small staff, limited hours and it charges extra for paper checks and mailed hard copy statements… but its Website is welcoming and useful, even at 3 a.m.