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There was a day when we gave people our business through a sense of loyalty. This loyalty was earned as repayment for a repeated positive experience. We are prepared to put up with the occasional lapse in the level of service we receive if we know that the overall intent is to provide us with what we want and that the normal level of service does provide us with exactly that.

That was in the good old days when we could make the assumption that the service provider was in business to provide a service. Those were the good old days indeed.

When the bank manager could look at your plans for expansion and give you what you needed because he knew you and was able to be loyal to his customers. When you kept the same credit card in your wallet for years because you thought that you had built up a relationship with the company.

It comes as a rude shock today when you need to stretch your resources and in the face of a twenty year relationship discover that your loyalty counts for nothing. It comes as an even ruder shock to find that the bank manager is desperate to help but is prevented by the rules of the bank that he now finds himself shackled to.

The bank manager became a bank manager by working his way through a business that essentially made money by helping other people to make money. By gaining experience and understanding he progresses to the point where his personal influence can be seen to be helping his customers to make more money.

Then the bank changed the rules. Now his job is to apply the rules without any latitude at all.

All his accumulated knowledge and experience counts for nothing as the ability to make a decision is taken away from him.

From being a respected autonomous figure he finds himself relegated to applying a set of rules that encouraged him to give inappropriate loans in order to meet the targets set by the bank and not allowed to give help in situations where he knows that his ability to do so would give someone who deserved it the space they need to breathe.

Is it any wonder that the bank manager becomes disillusioned and goes forth to seek out pastures new where he is allowed to use his experience to add value and be more than a non-thinking clerk.

The bank mangers as a consequence leave their positions before they have completed the full term with the result that their successor is put into post before gaining the full experience that they need. But now that doesn't really matter because under the new rules we no longer need the same level of experience to be a bank manager. The new manager just has to follow the rules.

This is fine for a while but blindly following a set of rules soon palls and once again the manager moves on.

Each subsequent manager is therefore less able to be the manager that we all grew up to respect and work with, until the person who becomes the new long term manager is the sort of person who has grown up not being required to think and is therefore comfortable in a non thinking role and is probably even envied by his peers who are still working for McDonalds.

We are not taking a pop at bank managers here but the environment that has created this need to withdraw the ability to think from the workforce.

The same pattern is repeated in call centers. Call centers used to be populated with individuals with a certain amount of expertise in their field to whom it appealed to be able to help people who were having difficulty. A natural human desire to help. And then the rules were changed.

Instead of the help line being there to help and at the same time give the operator job satisfaction when that help was given, the rules now say that the object of the help line is to process callers in a given time. The object of the help line is no longer to deal with queries or complaints it is now simply to process the calls.

The experienced operators will now leave the call center because they know that it is impossible to satisfy the callers in the time allotted and they in turn are replaced by other operators who have less experience and therefore less ability to satisfy the callers or themselves. When they too inevitably leave they are replaced finally by operators who are unable to care about the outcome of the call. The consequence for the customer is that it becomes increasingly pointless calling the help line because the operator is increasingly unable help. In fact it is a bonus for the operator when the customer, receiving wrong or misleading information, slams the phone down in frustration because it improves their average.

This situation will continue to get worse until we start to understand the lessons in customer service training that we seem to have forgotten. That the customer is important and that the relationships we build with people have a value that is worth more than the fleeting performance targets with which we have become obsessed.

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