When customer service can feel like exploitation

The mainstream media has exposed us to reviews of Margaret Thatcher’s life and contribution to British history ad nauseum over the past couple of days, so I post at the risk of readers already being sick to the back teeth of hearing about her.  But this is important.  One of the most noticeable changes of Thatcher’s policies, though perhaps industry was heading this way anyway, was a renewed focus on customer service.  Companies have worked out that a happy customer makes for greater profit.

And so, companies have focused on workplace environment:

Whether you are big or small, you cannot give good customer service if your employees don’t feel good about coming to work. Martin Oliver, MD Kwik-Fit Financial Services

And employee assessment and recognition:

What gets measured, gets done. And what gets recognised gets done again, and even better.
Robert Crawford, Director, Institute of Customer Service

And being better than competitors at treating customers:

Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.
Dr Tony Alessandra, author and consultant Olympic Gold Medalist

The BBC published a report 6 years ago on Margaret Thatcher which said:

Her critics claim British society is still feeling the effect of her divisive economic policies and the culture of greed and selfishness they allegedly promoted.

And this is the point.  It is great for the customer that companies have made customer service such a priority.  But Thatcher’s policies, which reflect the ideology of the age, state that the profitability of the company is the highest priority.  Excellent customer service is a means to making money.  And so staff and customers in post-Thatcherite Britain always feel like slaves to the economy, or slaves to the company’s bottom line.  Excellent customer service in materialistic Britain is essentially greed dressed up as kindness.  When someone serves me because it will make more money, then I have been exploited and I feel it.  It takes all joy out of the experience for both the one being served and the one serving.

Customer service works.  It is a good thing.  No one wants dreadful communist style provision.  But let’s get our motivation right.  There is a better and more edifying motivation than profit to good customer service.  Jesus said to his disciples:

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:42-45

When employees of businesses, hospitals and governments serve people because Jesus first served us with his life and because he not only modelled loving, sacrificial service but told us to do it, for the love of God and the love of people, then serving and being served becomes a joy.  And the strange thing is this: the profits follow.  As Jesus said:

Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.   Matthew 6:31-34

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