Customer of the month

The idea of employee of the month is pretty well known – though I suspect more often found in the US than in the UK, and it’s often something to do with giving extraordinary customer service.  But that’s still a very supplier-based view of what is going on.  Now the Selling Sherpa reports on the splendid idea of a customer of the month:

On the counter near the register was a prominent frame with a
picture of one of their regular patrons noting his selection as
“Customer of the Month”. I was impressed by this and wondered how one
achieves such an honor.

I asked the barista about the selection criteria and she informed me that it’s a group decision by all who work there.

Seth Godin observes that:

The hardest part is getting over the fear that you’ll alienate all your
other great customers. Give it a try, it’s probably worth the risk.

Which is a good cue for returning to the hoary question of what ‘customer’ means for public services.  Is this a way of forcing staff to be attentive to customers?  Of encouraging customers to come back for more? Of telling customers that some ways of behaving and interacting are better than others?  What might our staff – and our customers – do differently if they thought their picture might be in a place of honour in a tax office or a GP’s surgery?

Or have we just slid beyond the point where the metaphor of public service user as customer is useful?