Big Companies Still Need the Human Touch

I think one of the biggest frustrations I have had in my adult life is trying to get the big companies I depend upon, like phone and energy companies, to understand that I am an individual, and indeed a complex individual at that, and that I can not neatly be put into their expectations. I always had the tongue in cheek attitude that their rules do not apply to me because they were never designed with my situation in mind. I am clearly not an anarchist but complaint after complaint, I have repeatedly been David slaying Goliath, proving being big does not mean you are right.

My greatest frustration is when companies, especially those who have made themselves monopolies in all but name, like eBay, do not consider the impact of their automated policies and procedures on people’s lives. I had a friend who was selling disability equipment on eBay, with can be a sensitive business in itself, and the realities of being a disabled entrepreneur with their own issues to manage meant they were not perfect, but they were doing their best and were very sincere in trying to provide a good service.

eBay had different ideas and decided to halt their ability to sell without notice simply because their feedback statistics had been calculated by computer to be less than perfect, but still great and without any negative feedback. Fine, they thought they could appeal but there was no appeal system, just someone on live chat telling them to do better next time despite not offering a second chance. My friend is still looking for another website that provides him with the same quality and flexibility as eBay, but the reality is this venture is dead in the water, and they are left with less income since there is no point fighting a titanium plated wall!

Another example that frustrates me is the big multimedia providers like Sky, BT and Talktalk, who provide television, phone and broadband in one complete package. This sounds a great idea until you have cashflow difficulties and can not pay your bill on a specific month. Now my phone is certainly not as important as it once was, since the only people who ring me are those cold callers trying to politely rip me off, but my broadband is extremely important to all aspects of my life. I know everyone can argue they rely on their broadband, but I really do extremely rely on my broadband!

Trying to explain to these companies that cutting of my broadband would be the social equivalent of putting me in a drugged-induced coma, and in fact without broadband, I may as well be in a drugged-induced coma to avoid the boredom and frustration, is quite a difficult exercise. I understand they want their payment but how can I pay them if I have no broadband. My banking is online, I pay everything online, and I make my money by being online!

I know I can use the phone but because of my speech impairment I require the support of my personal assistants, who translate for me as we make calls on loud speaker. This takes longer and denies me privacy, plus many companies want my personal assistant to be a signatory of my account before they are willing to talk to us, something I am certainly not prepared to do! So having broadband is easier for everyone involved.

I believe that one area of accessibility that is often overlooked is making small changes to company’s policy and procedures to accommodate and be sensitive to a wider range of situations and difficulties, and having the flexibility to make compassionate decisions that can help people in specific situations. This does not mean letting people get away with not paying or pitying people, but taking their customer loyalty and other factors into account to help the situation for both parties.

Big companies still need the human touch to be successful because every great monolithic organisation can have its day, especially if it is not good at meeting the ever increasing diverse needs of its customers.

from Simon Stevens


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