This is only a bit of fiction on my part, but I guess that the current level of Customer Services grew out of the old ‘Code Of Practice’ and ‘Customer Charter’, which were introduced in public service organisations like the Police where the abuse of power by a small minority (possibly institutionalised!) led to public outcry and protests by the activists on behalf of the suffering public in the 1940s and 1950s. And right it was too! Such pretence became effective and the practice was used more and more to appease the public and to create a more public friendly face of the police and other law enforcing agencies and furthermore, public offices and government departments. The PR gurus of the corporate world then thought of utilising such tactics to make their organisation more ‘customer friendly’ and attract more customers with hollow promises and, sometimes, baseless unproven claims. All this backfired when the legal claims from customers started pouring in (1980s and 1990s)as many such promises could never have been delivered.
The corporates in this day and age are now unable to turn the clock back and have to continue with an offering of ‘Customer Services’ to the public which causes the front line staff to have to bear most of the consequences…
I am sure you know of people who would buy an item of clothing to wear to a specific occasion and then return it to the shop after the big day has passed or ladies going to return a pair of expensive shoes after having broken the heels during the chase after a drunken party (not admitted to the shop owner/manager) and many such similar examples can be cited… Why should the shop manager have to take the heat for stupid company policies! So they just agree with the customer and possible write the stock off! In the field of public services like hospital staff, transport, council office staff, etc. the situation can be much worse for the public facing staff. A slight bit of discomfort to the member of public caused by the actions of a member of staff, irrespective of the customer’s behaviour being acceptable or not, can lead to violence against the member of staff. Admittedly, there is a small percentage of the population who will resort to violence, but that is still a significantly high number as the people working in such sectors will verify. They are subjected to such unacceptable acts on a daily basis. The staff have to be on their guard at all times and be ready to act if such a situation were to arise. They become experts at reading human behaviour, with daily occurrence and interaction with the members of public, some polite and an unacceptable percentage at the other extreme. One can be highly professional at their approach to their job, but daily taunts and remarks and public behaviour towards your work can gradually take its toll and affect your performance and make you extremely edgy and react to a situation in a way you would not have otherwise. The bosses and management in their offices do not recognise this and only want to go by the rule book if the employee is brought in front of them after a complaint from the member of public. The complaint, obviously, would not include details of the verbal abuse the customer may have subjected the employee to before the situation got out of hand.
Such scenarios present the conundrum – should a member of staff in a customer facing role offering public services be expected to be professional at all times or be expected to protect their self-respect and give abuse back to the member of public who seem to have forgotten that they have duties to perform if they wish for their rights to be respected.