Dial 1 for frustration…

Sunday Blog 33 – 24th April 2022

You know the deal – you ring, you choose the appropriate number for the service you are seeking, the hold music starts. It stops and for a second you are hopeful, but instead the automated voice advises you of all the many things you can do on their website which means you don’t need to stay on hold. You long to have the kind of problem where just a few clicks on a website would fix it but alas, it is not. You actually do need to speak to a human.

Having tried to tempt you with their online options, the hold music begins again. The next time the hold music stops there is no sense of optimism that there will be a human just yet, and sure enough you are reminded yet again, just in case you are particularly dense, that you can do a range of actions online. This is repeated many times. The phone line is your Zen Master to ensure you practice your deep breathing, disconnection from outcome and possibly even some judicious distraction to keep the frustration levels down.
Finally you are connected! It’s a miracle! Once you have answered the six identification questions and advised them that you are in agreement with the impossible and unread legalese of their Privacy Policy, you can finally talk.

They do their absolute best to help you, even put you on hold a few times and when you think the problem is now resolved, you hang up. Only it turns out it was actually a bit more complex than that, so you start again. Again with the Zen Master music and the regular reminders that you could, if only you weren’t so dense or complex, do what you needed to do online. Again you speak to a human. But it’s not the same human. You do your best to bring them up to speed but it takes quite a bit of coaxing and getting them to click on the system to see what is written about your last call (usually not quite enough for them to be able to discern what happened then and what needs to happen now) and on you go. Repeat six times over a ten day period and Voila! You finally have the result you wanted!

But just imagine if you could ring once, get to speak to a human, and then you could speak to or email the same human all the way through sorting out your issue. Continuity. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Almost everywhere you care to look, this kind of luxury – of being able to work with one person in a company – is not available. The reality is that having access to continuity works well for the customer, but not for the organisation. It’s just too hard to have staff available for people on demand.

But is it? Is it actually more time-consuming for organisations than it first appears? Could I have been managed in two calls with one staff member rather than ten calls with ten?

The frustrations of trying to get this issue sorted reminded me of the frustration I discovered as a victim of crime two decades ago. There is no continuity of legal representation when your case goes before a court. (I mean technically a Department of Prosecutions (DPP) Lawyer is representing the Queen – but they are your only chance of being heard in the incredibly disempowered victim role.) You get a File Manager who in my case never actually went to court. Each time the matter was heard in court, someone else had to grapple with the file, try to get on top of the issue. I would ask the File Manager who was it this time, ask if I could speak to them myself. They were always very kind but it was exhausting.

When I went to court just once during my victim of crime journey, I saw one very overworked, kind DPP lawyer in the court, doing case after case after case. People accused of crimes had one lawyer all the way through and there was a dizzying parade of them in and out, in and out of the court room while the DPP lawyer remained. I suddenly saw just how much easier it was to administrate his time from an organisational perspective – one lawyer, one court, scheduling done. But it was awful from a victim perspective.

And what about health? Personal care? Social care? For most of these type of organisations, continuity of staff is the exception, not the rule. My father’s final two weeks saw a parade of carers in the home – a different one every day. It was far from ideal.

Sigh. I don’t know what the answer is, but every where I look, it always seems that the organisation or system’s needs trump the individual’s needs…

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