To the Readers' Forum:
I agree with the recent letter by Rick Hammond regarding adverse changes in customer service at certain businesses with the increased use of self-checkout over real people cashiers. I firmly believe that the true value of a business, or a government public service, is measured by how the customers are treated. More and more we are seeing an increase in self-service over personal service.
Mr. Hammond pointed out several problems with the "push" toward automated or self-service in business, two of which are profit motivation and lost jobs, especially in a "trouble economy." He correctly points out that self-service isn't necessarily more efficient either.
I also believe services provided for by government may be similarly affected by elimination of trained employees in favor of automated telephone or Internet options. Like with private enterprise, there is nothing wrong with automation and self-service as a public service option, but when government pushes customers into self-service, that action may save money, but it does not necessarily make greater efficiency.
Machines do not have the patience to deal with people problems, nor can they make appropriate judgments or offer the necessary sympathy or empathy needed in public service. Machines are not accountable to anyone. Self-service in government also "cuts down on jobs in an already troubled economy."
Unfortunately, unlike in business where a customer might be able to find another business with better personal service, most government operations are one of a kind, you can't really shop around. Thus, I think it is imperative that customers of government services demand the highest degree of personal service and accountability. Don't be misled by bureaucrats who want to sell you the snake oil of "lower taxes equals better government." Cheaper government, yes, but as Mr. Hammond suggests, avoid the false sense of convenience getting in the way of principle.
Right now, public service jobs are on the chopping block big time at all levels of government. Legitimately, there may be a need to reduce waste in government and improve the processes to make government more efficient, but government services are not bought off a shelf. Government service is, by necessity, rather labor intensive and if you think otherwise, you are only fooling yourself; but please stay on the line and listen carefully to the following service options, or click on the following link and for our automated troubleshooting help program.
Paul L. Demler