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A Catholic-Personalist Critique of Personalized Customer Service

Ferdinand Tablan

Abstract


This article presents an ethical analysis and critique of personalized service in the tradition of Catholic social teaching (CST) that is both Catholic and Personalist. It tackles the ethical issues involved when service delivery is personalized, issues that affect both the consumers and the service providers. It focuses on nonprofessional services that are offered by low-skilled blue-collar workers through corporations that are organized to produce efficient service to a high volume of consumers. Customer service involves intersubjectivity, that is, interaction between two persons as subjects. Ethics in the service context is not only about treating consumers in a just manner; the threats to the personhood of the service providers are also significant, for their work cannot be separated from their very being. By focusing on the ethical issues of emotional labor and consumerism of human service, the study will argue that the human interaction in personalized service runs the risk of alienating us from our authentic selves and from each other. If the objective of personalized service is to create authentic human relationship in the service encounter, the latter can arise even in a nonpersonalized service. We do not have to personalize our actions in order to create genuine human interaction. Instead, what we must do is to treat each other as persons.

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