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Customers as creative resources: their influence on firm freedom

Loïc Plé (Associate Professor, IESEG School of Management, CNRS-LEM (UMR 8179), Lille, France)
Xavier Lecocq (Professor in Strategic Management, University of Lille, Lille, France and Professor, IESEG School of Management, CNRS-LEM (UMR 8179), Lille, France)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 20 July 2015

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Abstract

Purpose

Researchers and practitioners usually consider that integrating customers in firms’ business models comes with positive consequences. However, customer integration may also detrimentally influence firms by limiting their strategic and operational latitude, which, in this context, refers to the degree of freedom companies possess over their strategic and operational decisions and actions. Being aware of that would enable companies to limit this potentially harmful influence.

Design/methodology/approach

This is a conceptual paper that relies on recent business cases. It is suggested that the negative influence of customers on firms’ latitude occurs through the three dimensions of their business model, namely, resources and competences, value propositions (i.e. the firm’s offer) and the organization.

Findings

By influencing the use of resources and competences, the design and evolution of the value proposition or the functioning of the organization, customers may constrain firms’ strategic and operational moves and thus have detrimental effects on their performance and evolution. Three ways to counterbalance this potentially negative influence are proposed.

Research limitations/implications

A lack of prior research on the negative side effects of customer integration in firms’ business models is emphasized. Further studies are needed to help firms take these into consideration.

Practical implications

Being aware of the potential drawbacks associated with using customers as resources, firms are invited to balance the level of their strategic and operational latitude with the importance that they grant to their customers.

Originality/value

This paper introduces the concept of strategic and operational latitude. It is also one of the few to highlight the negative consequences of customer integration in firms’ business models.

Keywords

Citation

Plé, L. and Lecocq, X. (2015), "Customers as creative resources: their influence on firm freedom", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 11-22. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBS-05-2014-0051

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited