Cut The Customer Service Crap

Written by Rick O'Shea

Melbourne’s public transport system has declared me to be no longer a passenger but a customer. Oh my Lord! Into the dustbin of history goes a millennia of human exceptionalism. From now on it will be E.M. Forster’s “A Customer to India”, on ocean liners we will book our dream customer to the orient, Marco Polo’s tremendous travels will become a “Customer to Cathay” and even pop music will have to change with Elton John’s song becoming “Another Customer Wanta Get On.”

And this is not just public transport. I note this creeping cancer at my public library which no longer regards me as a library patron but instead has a customer service desk. Similarly, my local council does not have a ratepayer or residents counter but now, like the library, a customer service counter.

So folks, save ya money on the expensive private education for your progeny. To ensure your kids success all you need do is download the marketing speak ap and little Johnie or Janet’s future is assured.

One can only admire the prescience of George Orwell when writing in 1984, predicting how remote authority will use new technologies to both contract the language and play with the meaning of words as methods of controlling the population.

Putting aside the ridiculousness of being declared a customer when clearly I am not, what does the imposing of a false premise of a “relationship” between ourselves and customer service mean for the free individual?

Firstly, it is unnecessary and unproductive. Why is someone being paid, TRULY – paid, to dream up ridiculous train passenger announcements? For example, it is announced “Your next service to Frankston departs from platform 8” when, strangely, my service runs even when I am not on it. It is also proclaimed that adhering to the timetable is running a “good” service (don’t they feel good about themselves!) No. It is what they’re paid for. I am also thanked for choosing to travel by Metro rail. What? Is my stand alone train line akin to the choice of the international airline market? I am going to work, numb nuts, and my family are the only relevant people to thank me for doing so.

Who cares, you may ask? It’s not really that insidious. As all who have studied Shakespeare know, language changes. However in this instance I disagree. I regard “customer service” as an unwarranted imposition on my life by remote authority under the false guise of “customer relationship”. This allows the system to erode provision of core services whilst surveying us on trivialities such as our musical tastes. The end result is similar to the parades offered in ancien Communist regimes. Please, please, please let people return to entertaining themselves instead of being entertained by people remote to them who are not apart of their life. Let us return to personal responsibility in the public sphere where we all get around without disturbing our neighbours.

Customer service in lieu of service provision also allows authority to dodge responsibility. Why should I deal with a customer service desk and not the responsible person? Why should they exercise the designed policy of placating me from what may be justified anger? Instead of responsibility being taken by the right person, I have a barrier of customer service placed between myself and the person responsible. The result? I am thanked for my patience! And there is no assurance the problem will be fixed – how can customer service make assurances about something in reality they know nothing about?

Customer service forms this separation barrier, a police line if you like, between the individual right to privacy and those in remote authority wanting to exercise technological influence over our daily humdrum affairs.

So why do the rest of us have to carry these professions sucking marrow out of the system? They must be of benefit to the system, after all capitalism only endures costs, it doesn’t sponsor costs. Just go to Melbourne’s privatised Southern Cross train station for evidence of this. Despite the premises being chockabloc with food franchises and vending machines, rubbish bins are scarce. So why does the system pay for someone to “thank” me for traveling by rail but not pay for an essential service such as rubbish removal? Because customer service serves the system, not the individual.

Think about it. Just what do these customer service people do except separate us from those in authority? On the railways they do not sell tickets, they do not drive trains and they do not fix signal faults. At the council they do not empty bins, they do not fix roads and they do not tend park lands.

So just what is their purpose? They sit around inventing what, from their standpoint, “benefits” the customer. These measures are in reality only about governance. After all, public announcers are a one way form of communication. Ask anyone who has been in prison the truth of this.

I believe customer service is a cloak hiding the fact that our core services are eroding while the collective wealth is siphoned by the executive class. The executives need this “customer service” barrier to protect them from the ripped-off community. The executive’s false mantra is that they are only responsible to shareholders and not the community.

So instead of reliable necessary services, we as customers will inhabit the system’s inescapable control method of white noise bland-land banality. Remote authority will provide us North Korea style extravagances every so often while the bulk of the time we will be zombied-out Nurse Cranny style from “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest” with 24 hour piped incidental music.

As the title of this article says – cut the customer service crap and return responsibility to the proper managers and executives.

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