I wrote recently about the issue of dignity and respect in the NHS and how the way we treat our patients may be linked to the general way in which we treat each other and are treated. Over the last week or two a couple of things have increased my view that we have a problem in this country with the way we speak and treat people that ultimately affects people when they come into contact with people in the public sector. We appear not to understand how to do customer service, so much so that even when we are customers in the purest sense some of those who should be part of the service don’t seem to recognise or care about that fact.
One day last week I arrived home to discover the telephone was not working, you could not ring in or out though the internet was working (strange I guess). I got onto my work provided mobile phone (having got the teenager of the house to find the phone number of the telephone company on the internet as I am quite useless at keeping numbers like that handy). The automated voice asked me to key in my phone number, then said it didn’t recognise it. I then had to wait for a very abrupt and verging on rude person. The company first asked me to clear various security hurdles before I could report my phone missing (luckily I do know my own address, post code and the bank my account is paid through) I was then placed on hold. 20 minutes later I hung up, I could hear various sounds going on in the call centre, but no one ever came back to me. The phone was however fixed at the end of all this, so I can hardly complain, well yes actually I was pretty miffed and used my hubby as a means of getting this off my chest.
Annoyance number two is about banks. I have an account purely used to service a loan. This loan is meant to be paid on 1st of the month. I make sure there is money in there and it is paid. This month I only remembered to do an electronic transfer of the missing £15 needed to pay the loan on the first. Sadly the bank had taken the loan payment on 30 April, and are now charging me £15 for going £15 over drawn (nice work if you could only get it!) I am still to go and have the argument with a human at the local branch but now I am calmer about that one it might go better. I was amused to receive the following as an email at the weekend, apparently recently published in the national press:
A 98 year old woman in the UK wrote this to her bank. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in the Times
I am writing to thank you for bouncing my cheque with which I endeavoured to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the cheque and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honour it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my Pension, an arrangement, which, I admit, has been in place for only thirty eight years. You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account £30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.
My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways. I noticed that whereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become. From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person.
My mortgage and loan payments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank by cheque, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate. Be aware that it is an offence under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an Application Contact Status which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Solicitor, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.
In due course, I will issue your employee with PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modelled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Let me level the playing field even further. When you call me, press buttons as follows:
1 To make an appointment to see me.
2 To query a missing payment.
3 To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.
4 To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.
5 To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.
6 to transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.
7 To leave a message on my computer (a password to access my computer is required. A password will be communicated to you at a later date to the Authorised Contact)
8 To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through to 8.
9 To make a general complaint or inquiry, the contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.
Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.
May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous, New Year.
Your Humble Client