Thursday, 30 January 2014

Article: IT’s compliment of complaints procedures

We in the UK have many things to thank America for and arguably the most significant of these are Freedom of Speech and now knowing how to make a complaint about poor customer service. If there is one nation that knows how to complain it must surely be America without whom we simply would not have learned how to take many a supplier to court for failure to deliver a service or for poor product that fails to do what the enterprise says it will.

When it comes Information Technology the provision of contact details for customers to complain is woefully lacking via official channels and instead what we are left with is a trial by media option as a precursor to court proceedings.

If you think about search engine providers, computer programmes and mobile phone providers that we use daily for business, firewall security and website hosts very few supply us with a ‘customer service’ button to click when we have a problem. Even when you manage to find a ‘contact’ button they rarely lead you to a customer service department and more commonly you end up with the home page appearing on your screen sending you back to your starting point. Make no mistake here, this is not by accident, this is by design and wholly intentional on the part of these service providers because if it isn’t, it suggests they are as thick as shit. They are in the trade of supplying information technology services and yet they are incapable of supplying the information of contact details for customers to point out that there’s a glitch. Below are just five examples of what we’re up against... the list is inexhaustible.

Seven examples of IT services that do not have easy access contact details to make a complaint
  1. AVG
  2. Blogger
  3. Facebook
  4. Google
  5. LinkedIn
  6. T-mobile
  7. Twitter

When a glitch happens in IT is invariably devastating. To give a couple of examples from recent times banking systems fail to work, emergency response services fail to get informed of life threatening situations and national security systems can also be jeopardised. Fortunately in the latter two examples people are canny enough to get round these things as their stock in trade is dealing with emergencies, so it’s only us ordinary folk that bear the brunt of IT screw-ups. Hands up who has experience of the frustration of not being able to make a call, send an email or even access the internet at a critical moment in your business or personal life?

You might think then that it is time to ditch all things computerised and revert back to the more civilised pace of posting handwritten correspondence, sadly though even that service relies on computers and IT technology and there too you will find there are few contact buttons that will lead you to a satisfactory customer service experience. At this point I am tempted to suggest semaphore, smoke signals, carrier pigeons, Chinese whispers and an assortment of trained pets, though I doubt we’d get far sending our goldfish to deliver our tax information to HMRC tempting though it may be to do so.

“How can you learn what needs fixing if you have no complaints procedure to tell you?”

 What we need is a ‘complaints’ button and a ‘suggestions’ button with full contact details of phone, postal and email addresses. However there is a slight problem with that in that with billions of people complaining at the same time over millions of glitches it would crash the system entirely. This is why we end up with frustrating situation after frustrating situation to wade through and it is also why the most powerful IT service providers of all are somewhat over endowed with their own self-esteem - which is a polite way of saying that they are complacently arrogant.

It used to be that money drove the world and money stems from business, now I think it is more accurate to say that it is IT. We do still have the power to complain via social media but only when it too works. Unfortunately... sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and even blogsites like this one on Blogger also fail to provide easy access contact details when there is a fault. It is perhaps understandable then that we have ended up with what we have now got with update after update to fix glitches complete with new glitches to replace the old ones to drive us all insane.

I personally intensely dislike the invasive nature of Google and Microsoft on my own PC as I now have to work extremely hard to stop them both altering the settings on my personal computer while allowing them to access it enough for the darn thing to work at all. To me it is an invasion of my privacy and right to choose. Most people do not have the knowledge to overcome such invasions and no doubt I won’t be able to for much longer either as I am not an IT guru.

Regrettably we live in competitive times business wise which, when it comes to IT, means we will continue to be swamped with ever more gadgets with ever more shiny buttons and ideas for us all to be seduced by, very few of which we need to function by. The solution might lie in banning all advertising for all IT products and services to reduce the number of problems generated as the more complex/sophisticated any system is the more points of failure it will always have.

“If it works don’t fix IT”

We, as consumers do not help by demanding that things are fixed immediately to provide the system developers no time to do it properly as their bosses do not provide them with the time to do so as they are paranoid about the loss of income during that period. We also do not help by trying to fix systems ourselves when we have next to no knowledge of how it was put together in the first place. Ask ten IT trouble-shooters to remedy your problems and you get ten different answers as to what the problem is let alone how it needs to be sorted. Why then do we assume we know better? In a way we do, as we are acutely aware of what won’t work for our desired use whereas the geeks that come to our rescue commonly pay little or no attention to what our actual needs are as they don’t tend to be up on social skills as it’s not their area of expertise. Personally I prefer things to work properly and for that to happen I would be more than happy to wait until they do (if I was notified beforehand) in preference to the perpetual loop of frustration that we have now.

I say this as one who helped design a bespoke program with a system developer whereby I explained to him how people actually use their computers and he ensured that the program was fit for them to do so their way, NOT his. The last I heard the program is still up and running and has never had to have a fix for any glitch. Tweaking to hone and make improvements is one thing, but that only works if you test drive thoroughly before you roll it out. The moral of the tale being that... if IT works DO NOT fix IT.

One can but dream that the IT sector finds solutions for what currently fails so regularly before it inflicts even more upon us especially with the internet of thingies well underway. I am determined to let as little of those ideas enter my home as possible purely because I could do without the stress of them not working too. 

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