I just wanted to query the procedure for plumbing an old septic tank system into the sewer line.
So I phoned them. And went through the mandatory ‘sort yourselves out to save us the trouble’ hurdles of phone options, key tapping, etc. to finally get through, after the mandatory ‘on hold’ time to a human operator.
Who was very pleasant and told me all I had to do was get the appropriate form which was online at their website.
You beaut. But when I went to the website I couldn’t find a form that identified itself as having anything at all to do with sewage at all.
I only found one form in fact and it seemed primarily concerned with fire services. What they have to do with Water services I don’t know.
But this seemed to be an online fill in form anyway and I wasn’t prepared to fill in anything at this time. I want to look ahead and see what’s entailed, not put in an application right now. Don’t have the answers to hand. Seeing I don’t yet know the questions.
So I thought I’ll email them and ask.
I much prefer email to phones because of things like this. Phone and you get sent off somewhere dubious: i.e. come the event it doesn’t work – and then you’re left again without an established connection but have to go back to square one with no record of progress to date. Which, of course, means progress to date: nil.
So I thought I’d email them. Surely there’d be an email connection? After all they’re such a wonderful organisation. Every page of their slick looking web site seemed to extol further their wonders, their magnificence, their virtues…
Nope. Nothing. Not an email address in sight.
But social media ! Facebook. Or Twitter. Yes. They’re there.
Lost in the herd. Anonymous and totally public all-shout-together spaces.
I am free to put my request on those sites.
So I try facebook. And get nowhere because it hangs and crawls and I can’t complete the post. This is not unusual in my experience. I don’t know why it is but it is peculiar to Facebook and I think it is something to do with them and perhaps the amount of traffic they carry. With everyone in the world trying to everything on their platform.
What a public utility is doing trying to carry on their business on such a platform is beyond me. Entirely. Seems totally inappropriate to me.
So I revert to Twitter and send off a tweet.
That’s the best I could do. And that’s what I’ve done. Added an anonymous, unofficial birdlike ‘tweet’ to the cacophanous thunderous roar of a billion ‘birds’ tweeting their nonsense.
Why did it come to that? Because the phone failed, as it so often does, and left me nowhere, which it always does by its very nature unless they ‘keep a recording’ as they always threaten to do – and because they offer no other option.
It is like they are hiding from us, isn’t it?
Keeping us at arms length. Staying as far away from us as they can get.
But they are not. Are they? Ever worked in a place like that? Hundreds, even thousands, of dumb little clerks each in their own cubicles doing the same processing day after day. Doing as they’re told. Doing what they’re told, the way they’re told.
They don’t want to hide from us. They would welcome interaction with us.
But they can’t get to us any more than we can get to them.
We are they. They are us.
But we are held apart.
Why? By whom?
By the IT department. And by the complicity of upper management. Either from ignorance or design. I don ‘t know which. I think ignorance and laziness. They are ignorant of what the IT department is doing and too lazy to care to look into it.
If a complaint ever gets through to them ‘I’m a customer, I can’t get through your maze and can’t get the service I want, I need a person..’ – then they go ask the IT department head or the Customer Relations Dept Head or the Head of the relevant Department and that Department Head – here’s the twist, the irony, the elephant in the room, the irony – is one of them.
Is just another one of ‘them’. Upper management ignorant of the IT realities and too lazy to care to look into it.
That ‘upper management ignorant idler’ meets another ‘management ignorant idler’ when he goes asking his questions.
All the way down the management heirarchy we meet the same types: ignorant idlers.
And they all take refuge behind the same mantra: “People would cost more money.”
‘We would need to employ more staff if we were to allow communication with actual people within our organisation’.
They mean this when talking about increased telephone comms to reduce on hold times. That’s bad enough.
But they also mean it when applied to potential receipt of emails and responding to them.
They mean they cannot afford to have staff receiving individual queries from the public, reading them, understanding them and responding to them.
That’s what they mean. That’s what they’re saying.
All of them. More and more and more of them. These big companies. Private and public. That they cannot afford to have their staff – any part of it – actually in communication with the public.
Then how can they perform?
The IT Department says they can do it all online via automated programmes.
The IT Department says they can automate the whole interface.
That’s what is going on.
The IT Department wants to control the whole thing. The IT Department is not in love with people. The IT Department is in love with ‘no-people’, with the idea of cyberspace, cybereality. The IT Department seeks to construct a reality within which the customer or client interacts only with cyberspace, never with people.
This is their goal. Their idea. Their raison d’etre. To eliminate the human side of the organisation.
It goes further. They actually have the goal of eliminating the customer, the client.
How can a service, a business, exist without customers? Well it can’t. But it can exist without customers as human entities.
Imagine a retailer. They don’t need ‘people’ customers do they? They just need ‘orders’. Place your order. The retailer interacts with the order, not the person.
The order is nice and neat, discrete, defined, pure and simple. It either is complete or it is not. It has multiple choice questions and they’re either answered and complete within themselves or not. They are never ‘maybe’ or ‘not quite’ or ‘perhaps’.
The ‘Order’. Think about it. Many businesses really respond only to the Order.
Order Forms have to be filled out and that’s what the company responds to.
You know that. We all know that. More and more as time goes by and we get accustomed to online ordering we know that we simply ‘fill in’ an ‘order form’ and buy what that form specifies.
The whole process is automated. On our end we provide an ‘Order’ at that end they respond to ‘The Order’. Not to us. To ‘The Order’.
If ‘The Order’ is not correctly constructed it gets rejected.
So there’s no humanity there, see?
And now the service industries especially that biggest of all Service Industries: the government, our Government Departments, are remaking themselves in this likeness.
They respond only to ‘The Order’. We have to construct our queries in certain ways and only in those ways. We fill out multiple choice questions. We select certain paths from a limited set of options.
We sort ourselves and categorise ourselves until we’ve constructed a pre ordained ‘Order’ which the system then satisfies from pre-programmed responses.
And that’s how the IT Department removes us from the equation.
It doesn’t suit the IT Department to have people in the equation at all. It wants certain input and it demands that it gets them. There is no input specified as ‘human’ because that’s far too woolly.
So that’s what’s happening and that’s what’s wrong.
And who is to blame?
Why it is obvious, isn’t it? We are. We who ask should accompany every ask with the statement ‘and I want a person to respond to me’ and they who work int he organisations with which we seek to interact should continually tell their masters and their workmates that they want to talk to the public, to us, to the people.
We the people should say that we want us, the people.
And if we don’t. If we continue as we’re going, we’ll destroy ourselves.