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Customer just doesn't work in this context. What's wrong with "serf"? I think it sums up our relationship with public bodies quite well, and it also lends itself "surf" for when you are using online services, like getting a tax disc.

I worked with "claimants" in the 80's. I hated the power:powerlessness relationship that existed, which many colleagues exploited and even enjoyed. Then along came an inspirational chief executive who invented customers for us. Attitudes and behaviours shifted dramatically as a result - amazingly quickly for such a profound change. And to me, the change was worth the label. Who should really care what we call customers? Customers don't. (And actually we don't really call them that to their faces, as surely as we never said "dear claimant"). Customers care about the service we give them, not what we call them. And if calling customers customers means we give them a better service, then who but the customer should care?

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