For the past few years I’ve noticed a growing tendency for me to become agitated more quickly than in my younger days. Not that I’m a fossil but I’m beginning to wonder if I’m turning into one of those “grumpy old men” that periodically get trotted out on BBC Three to vent spleen at seemingly everyday events.
What causes this shift in our levels of patience? Stress? Well I suppose it plays a part but I wouldn’t say I’m any more stressed today than I was when I was in my early twenties. So maybe I’ve always been a stress head but my coping mechanisms are starting to fail.
Could it be subliminal status issues, as my family grows up I’m no longer the king of the cave…well that’s not true, have you seen the pictures of my barbecues on instagram? (check out laudaball).
Might it be my ability to keep those spinning plates and multiple business interests alive and thriving? Nope, never been happier in what I’m doing but I grant you and I’m sure you’ll concur it has become tougher in the past five years. That can largely be put down to the global economy and its knock on impact on areas that we work in.
So what is causing this mood? What are the trigger points and what can be done about it?
Reflecting on the most recent examples of my ire I can see a pattern beginning to form. Form…now there’s a trigger word right there. Filling in forms that are both poorly constructed and overly invasive.
An example. I had cause to cancel travel plans to Paris but clever stick that I am I had taken out travel insurance. So you would think it would be a relatively straightforward claims process? No. Firstly no one answered the phone actually a recorded message did finally kick in. But the message just pointed me back to the website I’d been wrestling with trying to complete the “online” form – impossible it was a “read only” PDF.
All the forms finally arrived via e-mail a week later and required printing off causing significant depletion of the ink supply (don’t get me started on that one).
They wanted so much information I think the claims handler could, with the appropriate face surgery take over my life and live as me amongst my family. Does anyone ever question why they need so much information? I did. I’m waiting to hear but now fear I may have damaged my claim by daring to ask a question and not complying fully with their demands.
To add insult to the injury (the reason why I’m unable to travel), the insurance will only pay for the flights. Well you might think that’s ok until you check the smallprint. Flights are less than £50, the big costs are the taxes and surcharges, well over £200!! The Doctors fee for completing the medical certificate was £25 so the insurance of £11 was really worth it.
Another example, apologies to anyone who’s also starting to feel the hot prickle of rage and recalling their own frustrations but this blogging process is strangely cathartic. The other example is one that has been testing me now for more than 6 months. The mobile networks, actually one fruit based brand in particular. A fat lot of good having a mobile phone that doesn’t get a signal in your home or office. Despite repeated requests for assistance and facing customer service….No, sorry, I can’t call it customer service, it isn’t, it’s more akin to customer taunting. How far they can go with lies, rudeness and stubborn refusal to engage before you spontaneously combust.
I think they’re running a book on my case at the call centre they call the executive office. I can imagine my name on a whiteboard league table of “live” customers who provide hours of fun to staff as they invent new torture techniques. My favourite was the adjudication service and my very own adjudicator who was a commercial telecom lawyer only interested in pointing out how patient his client, oops sorry, the other party were in dealing with such an awkward customer.
I could go on, major motor brand garage franchises who make up problems with your vehicle so they can charge hugely inflated prices to do…well nothing. Charities, since when did it become ok to employ armies of students to stop busy shoppers every single day – do we need to get tattoos on our foreheads that say “I’m with the Charity preference service” that’s a lot for a normal forehead but would fit nicely on mine. Perhaps not such a good idea as the Telephone Preference Service doesn’t appear to work, I must have ticked the box that said, please still allow PPI, accident claims, charities and any overseas call centre to ring me at any time but preferably Sunday’s and bank holidays.
As for e-mail spam, it’s about time prosecutions were made for habitual offenders. Despite not ever subscribing you dutifully unsubscribe only to be ignored and worse. Having attempted an unsubscribe you’ve provided all the evidence they need that it’s a “live” account and one that they can now bombard with confidence.
What is my conclusion, my answer to these growing frustrations? An oldie but a goodie. Why can’t organisations keep it simple. Our lives are overly complex, involved, online, offline, passworded and accounted. A good business puts it’s thoughts to a customer experience, steps into their shoes and responds accordingly. Unfortunately there are far too many blindly process driven businesses engaging poorly trained and motivated staff. A large number of these businesses have a cynical view of the consumer seeing us a flocks of easily manipulated sheep rather than informed and empowered customers.
The trade organisations, ombudsmen and quangos put in place to protect us are failing and as a result we’re mostly left to our own devices.
The fact is I don’t think I’m alone in facing this problem. A quick check of a certain mobile network operators (let’s call them “nowt nowhere”) facebook and twitter account clearly demonstrates the scale of the problem.
A new force for consumer interest needs to be introduced, impartial and with real teeth. One that has an overriding mission to improve our lives through the simplification of processes and introduction of good old common sense.
Anyone else with me?