Technology promises so much but often all it delivers is frustration at its failings. I've been in contact with my bank—Lloyds TSB, should you wish to avoid them—for nearly a third of a year now regarding a bill payment I made to a water company using Internet banking. Without boring you with the full horror, two of my bill payments went to the wrong water company, apparently because the two companies had similar sort codes and there was a keying in error. As an aside, it must have been great when the service industries were nationalised and there was no choice as to who you got your water etc. from. For a while I was actually in the situation of having two electricity companies both claiming that they were my supplier and both trying to charge me! I had to contact a secretive third-party that acts as an arbiter in these situations.
I don't know a great deal about back office banking systems but surely it's not technologically impossible to provide a system that doesn't rely on some bored, lowly–paid data entry clerk keying in details for Internet banking transactions? I visited the bank's website for contact details and ended up composing a letter using Word because anything requiring their immediate attention has to be in writing. I've seen organisations like this and I bet they have rooms filled with cupboards filled with dusty files that no one ever looks at. I just know that this bill payment episode is going to run and run and keep coming back to haunt me.
The second technological failing that has befallen me concerns an order I placed with Amazon this week. The order was supposed to be delivered to me by Parcelforce in one business day but so far it's taken five! Which is especially annoying as it's a new gadget that I'm eager to get my sticky mitts on (more about this in a future blog entry). I had a delivery slip from them and I visited their website to arrange for the parcel to be re-delivered to my local post office, for which they charge a punitive 50p fee. Unfortunately the website doesn't offer this as an option, so I telephoned them.
I was greeted with a recorded message informing me that their systems were being upgraded and that I should try again later, or I could hang on but things may not work(!) At the first attempt I was transferred to several different lines and eventually got a helpful recorded message about different kinds of gas boiler! Undaunted, I tried again and after a while was put through to a message recorded by a man who clearly wasn't having a good day, saying that they couldn't access any of their databases and to use the Parcelforce website. I don't know what I was supposed to do if I didn't have Internet access. I went back to the site and arranged for delivery to a neighbour.
Surely we've enough experience with technology in this day and age to be able to offer a better service than this? And if you're going to offer multiple ways to access your services, don't make some services available via one method but not the others!
None of this is good enough. I feel like Michael Douglas did in Falling Down.