Allan Takes Aim Blog

Service: a lost function

Posted on: 9 July 2009

When in Canberra get The Chronicle, published every Tuesday

 The word “service” is used in conjunction with many other words such as Public, Police, Fire, Ambulance, Telephone, et al. It is used also to describe a religious rite, the act of copulation the function of a Service Station.


I mention this only because many people think the latter a misnomer due to the fact that when their car comes back after a Service they think that “dis” added to service might be a more accurate description.

 Service” however, is probably understood more in its common usage of helping to make things easier for people. Unfortunately this usage seems to be fast disappearing, particularly in the business world.

Canberra, of course, is known as a service town a true statement insofar as the biggest single employer in Canberra is the Government Public Service. However, when it comes to “Service” in business, like the rest of Australia, Canberra suffers from a lack of “Service.”


What causes this lack of “Service?” In some businesses technology is the cause even though business says technology improves “Service.” No doubt it does if a machine, not a human, delivers the service. Take service in banking for example.

Banks still employ people in ever diminishing numbers. In my view this contributes to the following situation, is based on personal experience at the National Bank though from what I can gather the same situation applies in every other bank around Australia.

 Not so very long ago I could telephone the National, speak directly to a person and, after proving my identity, get my account balance in under a minute: good service! Today, however, because of technology, I wait until a robot is free at which I need to give a password and a PIN, before I can know the state of my account: bad service!

 Spokespersons for the banks give security as the reason for this rigmarole. Frankly, I don’t believe it. Indeed, I wonder by what numbers have breaches of personal accounts declined (breaches in raw numbers not percentages) since technology security measures were introduced? While sure the decrease in breaches is minimal I feel sure the decrease in the number of people employed by the banks is not.

The fact is that technology has not only reduced the number of bank employees, it has also destroyed the claim once used by individual banks to attract customers: “we provide better service than any of our competitors?”  Which bank could make that claim today?


With no help from geneticists the banks have become clones of each other. But not only have they become clones they also seem to have become uniformly usurious. Not to put too fine a point on it, banks today make Shakespeare’s Shylock seem a man of boundless generosity.

 Each individual bank of course, still claims to give better service than its competitors and each says it needs to use technology otherwise they would not be able to pay the bigger dividends demanded by shareholders.

 But I wonder which shareholders make that demand? It must be large institutional shareholders because the many small shareholders I’ve spoken to say they’d be happy to give up a few cents in dividends to get a return to a more personal service unfortunately it seems none were ever asked what they preferred.

For Canberra Community News get The Chronicle


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