There was a column in my daily newspaper recently by a woman admitting she had thrown a hissy fit in a car park when the machine had swallowed up her ticket without the barrier being raised. She needed to feed her baby and was in a stressed state. She tried to summons help. It took a few minutes to arrive and even then it was at first only a voice telling her that she can’t have inserted a ticket- in other words the machine was infallible but she was not. Eventually human help arrived and the situation was sorted but it got me thinking. Computerisation gets ever more pervasive- invasive some would say. Obviously computers have great benefits and most of us would not be without one.
But I can’t help feeling that public service companies have got things the wrong way round. Computerisation of data can be immensely helpful to the customer enabling his or her query to be answered almost instantly. But what we increasingly have is the computer being put between the customer and the company whereas it should be behind the company helping it to assist the customer. In the example I quoted there clearly should be a human being patrolling a public car park. On the phone we should not have to wade through endless “menus” before encountering an adviser who will then ask the same questions we’ve tapped in or voiced to the computer. I’ve been in business and one of the first things you learn is that first impressions count for a lot. And that means a businesslike but friendly human being who can direct you to the person in the organization who is most able to help you. Computers yes but put them in their rightful place. (Photo: Dreamstime)
By Ian Craine