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Do we have a national service crisis?

By Jacquie Scammell - posted Friday, 5 April 2024

Have we lost our willingness to serve in this country? Most would say we have. The term: "Customer Service" doesn't exactly evoke the same enthusiasm it once did, and for this reason many businesses are working tirelessly behind closed doors to address the service gap that you, me, the customer, have become accustomed to.

When I'm ignored by a service professional (no greeting, no farewell), when someone promises that they'll return my call and never do, when I am treated like a number instead of a fellow citizen – slowly, my trust and belief in our tribe deteriorates.

As if tackling customer service wasn't tricky enough, with customers' expectations rising and digital, self-serve options advancing, and yet, it feels like we have additional unspoken challenges in Australia, at a deeper level, that may be preventing us from closing the service gap in this country.


Among the countless service leaders I speak to each week, the overwhelming pain point they want 'fixed' in their business, is the inattentive mindset of their staff; where people see their job as offering a service rather than being willing to serve. If an inattentive mindset is such a common pain point in workplaces, then one wonders, what is the ripple effect from lack of willingness to serve on society at large?

It's in our biology to be together and be mindful of our social interactions, and our social relationships are essential to our health and happiness as a community. Service interactions, as ordinary and repetitive as they may seem, are the most accessible place to make changes regarding ethics and strengthening our tribes.

Yet our tribe here in Australia is fragmented and our social bonds are weak. The recent shame over Australia Day celebrations exposed this, on a day that should reinforce to people what we value and what we stand for, celebrations are critical to a nation's rituals and routines.

Then there is worried commentary about our lack of capability in servicemen and women to protect our nation, at a time when Australia faces its greatest strategic risk in 80 years. Is this another sign of young Australians who are disconnected to their country, and aren't signing up to serve in the armed forces?

These are large issues of patriotism and national service, and while it feels like they're beyond my or your ability to fix, maybe there is a connection here to ways of fixing mediocre customer service and national service with the same solution; a national mindset shift.

Perhaps we need to stop asking people to offer a service and ask people if they are willing to serve. They both include giving, but only one is generous.


We face challenging days ahead, requiring each of us to step up and take responsibility for serving one another in our community. By bringing generosity to the table, we strengthen our bonds and enhance our customer service. This may also inspire more individuals to join in serving our nation and protecting what we hold dear.


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About the Author

Jaquie Scammell is the former chair of VIC Defence Reserve Council and CEO of ServiceQ.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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