Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Tap, National Beard Week and trite statements of values

Found the video of Spinal Tap at Glasto. Apparently they received a vote of 11/10 for their set.

Are you aware that it’s National Beard Week? The Beard Liberation Front is promoting a series of events around the country aimed at combating beardism. Last night I registered my beard on the National Beard Register.

Today I want to mention trite value statements by large corporations and public bodies. When I went with Hay for her MRI scan to the local NHS hospital I saw the notice reproduced below.

People who run large organizations have a habit of being a little too free with their use of the word ‘we’ when communicating their aims and aspirations. They assume far too much and believe just because they have an aspirational notice tacked on the wall that everyone working there subscribes to the aspiration. The truth is that few actually do, as they do not like having values imposed on them by faceless bureaucrats who have done nothing more customer-focused than hiring an expensive PR agency to advise them on how to appear more touchy-feely. Also it is rare for senior managers to put processes in place to enable those on the shop floor to actually meet the articulated aspirations, even if they want to. As such they are vacuous nonsense and almost all of us recognise this. It’s nothing more than the Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome.

The second paragraph is simply laughable: “We recognise that each patient is unique.” The NHS has, by its very nature and budget constraints, to be geared toward moving the most people through the system in the shortest possible time. There is no time for uniqueness, and most of us actually accept that as a necessary consequence of what is ostensibly a free service. “Personal beliefs and lifestyles are treated with respect, dignity and without prejudice,” it goes on to say. I think not, given all the stuff we hear in the news about zero tolerance toward smokers, drinkers and obese people seeking medication, I think they’re as respectful of lifestyles as Mugabe is of democracy.

By the cunning use of the word ‘we’, these notices shift the onus on achieving such aspirations to the customer-facing staff and away from senior management. What I’d rather see is the same notice, but with the word ‘we’ replaced by ‘I’ and signed by the Chief Executive, with his personal contact details in case of complaints.

While on the subject of customer service, don’t you just detest those call queuing systems that put you on hold for the statutory 10 minutes and then have the gall to play a recorded message telling you how much they value your custom, when clearly they couldn’t give a stuff about you as otherwise they’d ensure they had enough operators in the call centre in the first place. Once you do eventually get through to a human you can't understand a bloody word they say as they're based in deepest India and have an unintelligible accent, or you get through to someone in an unemployment blackspot earing 2p an hour and speaking in the thickest Geordie dialect you've ever heard. It’s nothing more than a balancing act of putting pissed off customers on one side of the scale and lost revenue on the other.

We have to accept that shoddy customer service is here to stay when we put more value on cheap services than individual attention. You’re apt to put up with waiting for 10 minutes in a queue if you’re only going to have to deal with the imbeciles on the other end of the phone once a year. If, on the other hand, you’re in regular contact with a service, then more value is put on a high quality of customer experience and you'll be tempted to pay more for the privilege.

I hear the Royal Family cost us all 3p a year more last year. It’s about time the Royal Family was privatised and the job put out to tender.

In scenes reminiscent of the Great Old Sodbury Parish Council Election Fraud of ’54, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been confirmed as the President of Iran.

Someone landed on the blog last night after a Google search on “poetry for children”. I trust they were not too upset.

Re yesterday’s post on Richard Dawkins’ plans for secular summer camps to teach critical thinking, here’s an interesting story from the USA on gun ownership and the church.


  1. absolutely true! The only reason they put up that notice in the first place is to try and put off potential law suits and of course, to give any new patients that false reassurance of being well taken care of!
    I wrote a post on Indian accents earlier (bhee are like thees only). You can check that out to educate yourself next time you find yourself on the phone taking to one of those! ;)

  2. Roshni: Does it work the other way round - an Indian getting through to a British call centre and being totally baffled by the accent?

  3. Sorry, been out all day, just got back.

    Why should customer services cost me anything? If I've paid for something, why should I pay more to get help for it to do that for which it has been sold to me (hmmm, think I had one too many glasses of wine there)?
    It doesn't surprise me that customer services are outsourced. If companies have to operate efficiently in this financial crisis (which is what you were expounding to us a few weeks ago), they're obviously going to find the cheapest labour possible.
    Hah. I don't pay a penny for Mrs Queen and family! However, some of my tax euros do go to buying kerosene for the BLOODY aircraft that Sarkozy and his minions use and that take off from an airport near me at all hours of the day and night with their BLOODY turbines.
    Can't see the connection bewteen RD's summer camp and a church service for better gunmanship (why does the latter sound to me similar to fucking for virginity?).

  4. It's too hot for beards this week. Do you suppose the week of Dec. 25 is taken?

    The idea of an "atheist" (uh, critical thinking) camp cracks me up.

  5. Those notices make me laugh. I can tell you, when you arrive at the hospital in the last stages of labour you don't give a sod what anyone thinks about your lifestyle!

  6. What type of beard are we talking about? Face fuzz? Or are we honouring the women gay guys date/marry in order to not give away the fact they are gay?

  7. I'm with kapgaf - Except why do I have to pay a penny towards the Royal Family?!