Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore, analyse and discuss the published concepts of “the customer” and “customer service” in the context of managing international emergency relief chains. Design/methodology/approach – This is a literature‐based approach that extends concepts usually applied in a commercial context to the area of humanitarian aid and emergency relief chains in particular. Findings – Based on the most common associations of the terms in the literature, the paper proposes adopting a customer and customer‐service perspective in managing international emergency relief chains. An understanding of the various perspectives of customers described in this paper provides a starting point in the development of emergency relief chains that can deliver customer service and satisfaction to all concerned. Practical implications – As managers of emergency relief chains strive to improve the performance of their organizations and supply chains in a highly challenging environment, the paper provides a useful and enhanced understanding of the roles that the “customer” and “customer service” play in their operations strategies. Although it is sometimes assumed that all participants in emergency relief chains are highly co‐operative, this is often not the case. Therefore, the concept of “humanitarian competitive advantage” is also presented to enable a better practical focus for managers of emergency relief chains. Originality/value – The paper is believed to be the first to apply the terms “customer” and “customer service” systematically in a humanitarian context and thereby propose a customer service perspective in emergency relief chains.
International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jul 10, 2009
Keywords: International aid; Aid agencies; Customer service management; Competitive advantage; Customer satisfaction
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