0176 - Managerial followup - 2021.02.15
You will note that neither Caleb nor Zoa said Lee Caldavera's name in front of Otto until Lee had already done so. Data security like that is important, and really should be a matter of common politeness.
While I'm on the topic of personal information, can I just say that holy cow, corporations and computer programs really need to stop using date of birth as anything important? Yes, I know you can confirm it on ID and your users are likely to remember it, but you're never going to convince your userbase that they need to keep their birthday a secret. If it leaks, it's not like you can get a new one! By definition, a bunch of other people know that date! They were there! Also, our culture has this whole yearly-party-dessert-fire-singing-ritual thing we do, maybe you've heard of it? What's going to be easier - finding another piece of data to use for user authentication, or abolishing the birthday party?
...got a little off-track, there. Sorry.
Anyway, I don't know if this phenomenon necessarily persists in the 22nd century, but I think a lot of human customer service exists as emotional ablative armour for corporations, and user satisfaction surveys exist as retroactive advertising.
When I worked at a call center, yes, a lot of my job was solving problems, but most of those problems boiled down to "I'm unhappy and would like some money", and I was being constantly told by the higher-ups "we can't just give away money, find any way you can to justify making the complaining customers go away without refunding them or prompting them to cancel their service". A big part of that was the personal connection, the emotional rapport one develops as quickly as possible - I don't personally give two shits if I'm giving away the company's money, but, if doing so affects my stats and could result in me losing my job, I can make a customer feel like I'm their friend and it's really sad that they're shaking me down and possibly getting me fired. I exist to act as a sympathetic, minimum-wage barrier between the customer and the CEO. They wouldn't hesitate to take money out of the CEO's pocket - and, lord knows, they fully deserve it - but it's emotionally uncomfortable for them to climb over me, the poor bastard serf, to do so. I heard "it's not you, you've been great, it's your company that stinks" quite a lot, and, I assure you, that's not a message that goes past me to the board of directors.
Similarly, companies rely on customers knowing that the surveys affect the workers. Customers might have just had a shitty experience, but, if that experience wasn't the agent's fault, they want to give the agent a 10 and the company as a whole a 1. Of course, the questions that are asked aren't about that - they're designed to get as many customers as possible reiterating that they did, in fact, just have a satisfactory experience, and it's all thanks to that nice agent, who should get a raise. I think saying that you just had a good time affects your memory of an interaction. If you find yourself saying "ten, ten, yes, that was a ten, I loved what just happened to me", then a week from now, you'll remember that you said ten, and you're not a liar, so it must not have been that bad, right?
Grade inflation is a well-known phenomenon. In an ideal world, an average grade would be a 50%, and that would be perfectly acceptable. As time goes by, though, everything gathers upwards towards a perfect 100. This is a thing, and it's not just school grades or satisfaction surveys - almost every quantified aspect of our lives is affected!
But yes, to quote Audre Lorde, the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. A satisfaction survey may change a few policies, but it can't stop the service from existing. You can vote for a new candidate, but you can never vote for a new democracy. You can buy different kinds of investment, you can never buy a new market.
The Otto program is, like most of the other systems and programs in the Forward setting, a perfectly sensible and helpful and practical thing for the vast vast vast majority of people, and Lee is at odds with it right now because Lee is ill-suited to their own environment. Bureaucracy and government programs are often thus, and will be thus because no system is perfect. The key is minimizing how many people are harmed (and, wherever possible, finding patterns of what type of people are harmed, and compensating for any unintended systemic biases).