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Automation acrobatics


There are basic tenets and common sense in business that can go a long way towards keeping customers happy, and this gripe is largely about the questionable value of automated systems, especially when programmed by people who are not thinking through how the customer is affected by their decisions and process.

Personally I don't care if a company has unseen circus acrobats in pyramid formation passing paperwork between them to process the needs of customers, but I do care about how it affects me when I interact with them in any way, and whether I need to undergo rigorous physical training to do so :)

1. I ring my phone provider, and listen to a nauseatingly bright voice that prompts me with a string of options and button pushes to navigate and expedite my inquiry. Guess what? You don't actually end up talking to the right person, so after explaining what you want, you are forwarded on to start explaining all over again with another person.

2. I decided to change my private health insurance provider last week, and join the new one online via a lengthy form process which includes the release form from the old provider. At this point I still have 3 weeks left on my current policy, and I specify the start date (obviously) to be the day after my current policy paid-to date. 48 hours pass and I receive a blunt letter advising me that my policy has been cancelled as of the previous day. The tone of the letter implies that I'm an idiot for cancelling my insurance, that my Medicare levy will be higher, and printed before me is my statement of cover dated the previous day. At this point I am scratching my head. I still have 3 weeks left on my current policy, which forces me to waste their time and mine by ringing for clarification. So I wade through telephone menus, and eventually wait in a long queue listening to funky musical dross repeated incessantly at 60 second intervals. Argghhh! "Yes Sir, you're policy has been cancelled, but there is a note here to say that it will continue until June 25." So I ask why I was sent a letter of cancellation when my policy is still valid. Why wasn't I sent the cancellation letter after June 25? Is it prudent to send an automated letter at a time that serves only to confuse and irritate me? NO satisfactory response to that. (BTW I'm not usually this grumpy.)

3. I prefer to pay online with BPAY. As a business, why would you deliberately annoy your customers by changing the Reference number for every bill? This means entering a new 20 digit number every time you pay your bill. Thankfully most business use common sense and make the number relate to the customer, and not the invoice itself. Yikes! Which business school trained these people?

If you work anywhere that involves automated process, think it through. Don't assume ANYTHING about the consequences. Test the whole process. Then test it again. Amen.