Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day 2 of Niceness: the bureaucracy is not necessarily designed to help you...

I'm trying to arrange a post redirection, and the Royal Mail provide a helpful on-line redirection service. So far, so good. However, if you stick the required postcode into their system, it gives an address without a street name. There is, helpfully, a telephone number to call to change the address, and they will change it within 24 hours.

So, I call them and am rapidly lost in their automated call assignment system. Lengthy messages explain all the wonderful things that they might do for you (this is an 0845 number, so you're paying to listen to Sarah's dolcet tones), but take you in loops when you final get a chance to dial 1 for option Z.

Eventually, I get through to a real human being. Her name is Charlotte. She tells me that, in fact, the address cannot be changed as it is 'as the local council registered it'. So, I would need to persuade Mid Suffolk District Council to re-register the entire street. This sounds unpromising, indeed, unlikely. So, I ask Charlotte what I can do. After some to-ing and fro-ing, she advises that she can do it over the phone for £7... each. Less than entirely impressed, I indicate a sense of frustration, carefully ensuring that I make it clear that I am not unhappy with Charlotte who is, after all, only following her instructions. Luckily, I have the appropriate form, and can complete it at my leisure this evening.

Technology is a wonderful thing in so many ways, but it does tend to cause people to fall back on the 'system' and the rulebook rather than try to find ways of serving the customer. The bureaucracy increasingly want standardised responses to administrative processes. By doing so, and by punishing those who seek to reach beyond the process map, they extinguish initiative. We all suffer from that lack of will, that suspension of the creative thought process, and life is made a little more maddening as a result.

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