Customer Service – there’s an App for that (I wish)

 

A few weeks ago, @bryangstephens (sorry Bryan, can’t find the link) wrote a post about customer service (focusing on the lack thereof).  So let me tell you about my day yesterday…

First of all, airlines texting you about flight delays and gate changes is wonderful. And I will happily use the Internet instead of a human to solve any problems. But that only works if the websites and apps are actually working. I think we’ve entered the age of computer systems being too heavily relied upon while at the same time, those same systems are unreliable.

Yesterday, I got a text that my flight from Austin to Las Vegas, with a stop in Denver, had been delayed three hours. First time on this route I’ve booked a flight with a stop, but because there was no plane change, the three-hour delay from Austin didn’t scare me. All I had to do was reschedule my shuttle from Las Vegas to St. George, UT.

The plane took off from Austin per the new departure time and landed in Denver. About a dozen people didn’t deplane; like me, they were booked all the way to Las Vegas. A flight attendant finally told us to leave; thinking we just had to deplane, then get on again, we all left. Only to see that the plane we had been on was now heading to San Antonio. We were directed to Frontier Airlines customer service and told it was between gates 34 and 35 (we were at gate 1). As I began the long, long walk to find the customer service desk, I noticed even numbers were on the left, odd on the right. By the time I got in the 30s I was convinced I had been directed to some mythical place like Platform 9-3/4.

I eventually found the customer service desk. Upon arrival, I got in line behind nine others. There were three people working the computers. Two women arguing with at least one customer service person at a time, quite often two. That’s because they had dealt with every agent, and when they had been handed over to another agent, the original agent often had to interject to correct what was being said.

I quickly made friends with two former Air Force gentlemen (about 30 years old?) and we entertained ourselves for the 90-minute-plus wait eavesdropping, then passing the info back to the poor people in line behind us, which was growing by the minute.

What we gathered: the two women had been thrown off their flight and had missed two flights on which they had been re-scheduled. They were now being asked to pay $75 to get on the next flight. Whenever it was mentioned that they had been thrown off the flight, the negotiation started all over again with comments like: you can’t prove it, you don’t have video, I never said that, I didn’t do that, there are no witnesses, blah blah blah. And then we were off to the races again. And they were not paying, no way no how.

The woman doing all the yelling was heavily accented; it was the consensus that she was speaking Arabic (or some non-romance, unfamiliar language). Yelling woman was about 40; the quiet woman looked a little older.

What I noticed: the woman doing all the yelling and negotiating was being unreasonable in tone and body language and was treating the customer service people like dirt; however, when she spoke to her companion in whatever language they shared, she was laughing and smiling.

I finally concluded that she was having the time of her life and thoroughly enjoying herself.

When it was finally my turn, I greeted the poor customer service gentleman with a big smile. He cheerfully got me on the next plane to Las Vegas, which had thankfully been delayed for three hours. Twice while he was helping me (what’s with the interminable typing???), the ladies crowded into my space to continue their conversation with the guy who was helping me; I finally had to throw an elbow and a death glare. They were constantly asked to move aside, only to get loud refusals: I’m not moving! Then all smiles while they chit-chatted to each other.

The customer service guy upgraded me, assigned me a great seat and gave me a free drink voucher. I met the Air Force guys in the bar for a beer, then excused myself to find a quiet corner to watch the debate on my phone.

I know about 12 people who have flown in the past few weeks. More than half of them have had to deal with delays and computer problems (including me, with a three-hour delay on the tarmac due to a defective door sensor (!) on the way to Texas, and then again yesterday on my return journey). What took me over two hours to get sorted with an agent yesterday should have taken five minutes using the Frontier App or webpage, but both were down. My daughter’s last two flights were delayed due to a computer glitch with baggage. My sister was delayed, then re-routed due to some other computer glitch. We’ve replaced glitchy people with glitchy computers.

Also, I don’t know what happened to the two women. They were still there arguing when I walked by the customer service desk an hour later. I am convinced they were having the time of their lives, at the cost of making miserable the customer service agents and every person in line in need of help.

PS: My journey finally concluded in Utah at 3:30 am. I’ve given up trying to figure out hours spent due to all the time changes; suffice it to say I felt as though I had walked the entire way, and I’m pretty sure driving would have been quicker.

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  1. She Member
    She
    @She

    Great post.

    I know only that–as frustrating as the customer service experience on this side of the pond can be, and how often my blood-pressure escalates to dizzying heights as a result–I’m so glad I’m not in the UK. 

    My sister’s experiences are so much worse. 

    Most of the time–in the US–such inconveniences are the result of accident, or incompetence, or they are the result of people tripping over each other and doing a poor job of communicating, but generally in a good-willed sort of way.  And it’s almost always possible–eventually–to find the problem-solver in the haystack, if you’re persistent enough.

    As far as I can see from my sister’s experience (and taking into account a fair amount of my own, when it comes to supporting my family elders in their later years when they needed help with many things), Britain is full of “Jobsworths” who are committed to deliberately obstructing and making difficult any attempt to resolve a customer-service problem.  This goes all the way from local government, to the NHS, to the roads and the trains, to those entrusted with public safety like the police, and–only then–to private companies whose agenda also seems to be to make things as inconvenient and burdensome as possible for their clientele.

    Things can always be worse.  And, some places in the world, they already are.

    Full disclosure: some of my most treasured memories (and a few lifetime friends) have come from my most horrific “customer service” debacles.  I’m not suggesting such debacles should be applauded.  I am suggesting that, sometimes–if one chills a bit–one can find the small opportunities in one’s minor crises.

    • #1
  2. Annefy Coolidge
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    She (View Comment):

    Great post.

    I know only that–as frustrating as the customer service experience on this side of the pond can be, and how often my blood-pressure escalates to dizzying heights as a result–I’m so glad I’m not in the UK.

    My sister’s experiences are so much worse.

    Most of the time–in the US–such inconveniences are the result of accident, or incompetence, or they are the result of people tripping over each other and doing a poor job of communicating, but generally in a good-willed sort of way. And it’s almost always possible–eventually–to find the problem-solver in the haystack, if you’re persistent enough.

    As far as I can see from my sister’s experience (and taking into account a fair amount of my own, when it comes to supporting my family elders in their later years when they needed help with many things), Britain is full of “Jobsworths” who are committed to deliberately obstructing and making difficult any attempt to resolve a customer-service problem. This goes all the way from local government, to the NHS, to the roads and the trains, to those entrusted with public safety like the police, and–only then–to private companies whose agenda also seems to be to make things as inconvenient and burdensome as possible for their clientele.

    Things can always be worse. And, some places in the world, they already are.

    JY and I downloaded an App in Scotland last year that we relied on heavily for transportation. trains, busses, ferries. It was accurate and effective – something that we have never found “customer service” people in Scotland to be.

    When I lived in Scotland in the late 70s, I was appalled by how difficult it was to get anything done. In my travels there in years hence, things have gotten worse. I actually stole a pack of razors from an airport there; I couldn’t use the self-checkout because they were a restricted item, yet there was no one there to take my money. Similarly, my mother’s small pension had been overpaid to the tune of a couple hundred bucks; I visited the office three times and couldn’t find anyone to take my money. “You’ll never take me alive” is my attitude when I can’t pay someone.

    And Canada is terrible. I have always said that you could blindfold me and spin me around at the US / Canadian border and I would be able to identify which country I was in based upon my first interaction at a motel or restaurant. My west coast cousins in Canada do as much business as they can in the States.

    Full disclosure: some of my most treasured memories (and a few lifetime friends) have come from my most horrific “customer service” debacles. I’m not suggesting such debacles should be applauded. I am suggesting that, sometimes–if one chills a bit–one can find the small opportunities in one’s minor crises.

    Agree 100%. I was texting my daughter from the Denver airport bar about my two Air Force buddies and she replied: At least you do make friends wherever you go. And I’m at the point of my life that delays and snafus don’t make much difference; I know I’ll get there eventually, there’s no meetings I need to get to; usually just a kid picking me up on the other side who will be mildly inconvenienced. And I’ll always find someone to talk to. And there’s always a bar …

    • #2
  3. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Annefy: First of all, airlines texting you about flight delays and gate changes is wonderful. And I will happily use the Internet instead of a human to solve any problems. But that only works if the websites and Apps are actually working. I think we’ve entered the age with the computer systems are being too heavily relied upon while at the same time, those same systems are unreliable.

    The single biggest problem in these areas, as with AI in general, is that nobody can get the information out, until someone else first puts it in.

    • #3
  4. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    So, let me get this straight, customer service in the UK is worse than here?

    Why do the British put up with so much?

    Sad.

    As for the two women, that is what security is for.

    • #4
  5. Annefy Coolidge
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    So, let me get this straight, customer service in the UK is worse than here?

    Why do the British put up with so much?

    Sad.

    As for the two women, that is what security is for.

    I have a lot of theories about why the Brits put up with so much; unfortunately it’s a very long tale that begins with WWI and probably isn’t very interesting. Suffice to say the Brits have lived generations with byzantine regulations and “authorities” of all sorts and are very comfortable with it.

    My parents (Scottish immigrants) never really lost the attitude. I had to school my mother constantly that she didn’t have to come up with some long-winded excuse about why she was returning something. 1) The salesperson didn’t care; 2) it was none of their business.

    As for the two women, I saw security called twice; they never showed. At least when I was there. So poor customer service at all levels.

    • #5
  6. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    So, let me get this straight, customer service in the UK is worse than here?

    Why do the British put up with so much?

    Sad.

    As for the two women, that is what security is for.

    I have a lot of theories about why the Brits put up with so much; unfortunately it’s a very long tale that begins with WWI and probably isn’t very interesting. Suffice to say the Brits have lived generations with byzantine regulations and “authorities” of all sorts and are very comfortable with it.

    My parents (Scottish immigrants) never really lost the attitude. I had to school my mother constantly that she didn’t have to come up with some long-winded excuse about why she was returning something. 1) The salesperson didn’t care; 2) it was none of their business.

    As for the two women, I saw security called twice; they never showed. At least when I was there. So poor customer service at all levels.

     Too bad sounds like it would have been great to see those women tased.

    • #6
  7. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    So, let me get this straight, customer service in the UK is worse than here?

    Why do the British put up with so much?

    Sad.

    As for the two women, that is what security is for.

    I have a lot of theories about why the Brits put up with so much; unfortunately it’s a very long tale that begins with WWI and probably isn’t very interesting. Suffice to say the Brits have lived generations with byzantine regulations and “authorities” of all sorts and are very comfortable with it.

    SNIP

    As for the two women, I saw security called twice; they never showed. At least when I was there. So poor customer service at all levels.

    As far as security not showing up, this is why these days, I always wear my DHS uniform when I fly anywhere.

    the spouse says impersonating such an official could cause problems. That’s why I upgraded my ID to read: “Western Region Department HomeLand Security Director.”

     

     

    • #7
  8. Annefy Coolidge
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    So, let me get this straight, customer service in the UK is worse than here?

    Why do the British put up with so much?

    Sad.

    As for the two women, that is what security is for.

    I have a lot of theories about why the Brits put up with so much; unfortunately it’s a very long tale that begins with WWI and probably isn’t very interesting. Suffice to say the Brits have lived generations with byzantine regulations and “authorities” of all sorts and are very comfortable with it.

    My parents (Scottish immigrants) never really lost the attitude. I had to school my mother constantly that she didn’t have to come up with some long-winded excuse about why she was returning something. 1) The salesperson didn’t care; 2) it was none of their business.

    As for the two women, I saw security called twice; they never showed. At least when I was there. So poor customer service at all levels.

    Too bad sounds like it would have been great to see those women tased.

    I think the tasing would have been roundly cheered. The line was at least 100 long when I left; four customer service representatives and one or two of them at a time being harangued by the two harridans. 

    • #8
  9. Chuck Coolidge
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Have very recently had to fly from Nashville to San Antonio via DFW and back,  then the next week from Nashville to San Antonio via IAH and back.  Decided my brother-in-law in Fort Worth is correct:  Drive!

    BTW things have changed considerably – and for the worse – since I flew regularly like 15 years ago, both the clientele and the flights.

    • #9
  10. Annefy Coolidge
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Have very recently had to fly from Nashville to San Antonio via DFW and back, then the next week from Nashville to San Antonio via IAH and back. Decided my brother-in-law in Fort Worth is correct: Drive!

    BTW things have changed considerably – and for the worse – since I flew regularly like 15 years ago, both the clientele and the flights.

    On my flight to TX, which was delayed on the tarmac for 3 hours, I was worried I was going to end up on a Tic Tok video. The flight was Las Vegas to Houston; I’d only paid $49 for the flight, I figured everyone on the flight probably paid similar.

    Four female flight attendants whose body language said loudly that they would be taking no prisoners and brook no dissent. Even the dozen or so young children behaved.

    It was a wonder to behold.

    • #10
  11. Chuck Coolidge
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Have very recently had to fly from Nashville to San Antonio via DFW and back, then the next week from Nashville to San Antonio via IAH and back. Decided my brother-in-law in Fort Worth is correct: Drive!

    BTW things have changed considerably – and for the worse – since I flew regularly like 15 years ago, both the clientele and the flights.

    On my flight to TX, which was delayed on the tarmac for 3 hours, I was worried I was going to end up on a Tic Tok video. The flight was Las Vegas to Houston; I’d only paid $49 for the flight, I figured everyone on the flight probably paid similar.

    Four female flight attendants whose body language said loudly that they would be taking no prisoners and brook no dissent. Even the dozen or so young children behaved.

    It was a wonder to behold.

    Those children are one of the changes.

    • #11
  12. Annefy Coolidge
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Have very recently had to fly from Nashville to San Antonio via DFW and back, then the next week from Nashville to San Antonio via IAH and back. Decided my brother-in-law in Fort Worth is correct: Drive!

    BTW things have changed considerably – and for the worse – since I flew regularly like 15 years ago, both the clientele and the flights.

    On my flight to TX, which was delayed on the tarmac for 3 hours, I was worried I was going to end up on a Tic Tok video. The flight was Las Vegas to Houston; I’d only paid $49 for the flight, I figured everyone on the flight probably paid similar.

    Four female flight attendants whose body language said loudly that they would be taking no prisoners and brook no dissent. Even the dozen or so young children behaved.

    It was a wonder to behold.

    Those children are one of the changes.

    If there had been $49 flights available, JY and I would have flown more when ours were small.

    • #12
  13. Chuck Coolidge
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Have very recently had to fly from Nashville to San Antonio via DFW and back, then the next week from Nashville to San Antonio via IAH and back. Decided my brother-in-law in Fort Worth is correct: Drive!

    BTW things have changed considerably – and for the worse – since I flew regularly like 15 years ago, both the clientele and the flights.

    On my flight to TX, which was delayed on the tarmac for 3 hours, I was worried I was going to end up on a Tic Tok video. The flight was Las Vegas to Houston; I’d only paid $49 for the flight, I figured everyone on the flight probably paid similar.

    Four female flight attendants whose body language said loudly that they would be taking no prisoners and brook no dissent. Even the dozen or so young children behaved.

    It was a wonder to behold.

    Those children are one of the changes.

    If there had been $49 flights available, JY and I would have flown more when ours were small.

    I bet yours weren’t little screamers!

    • #13
  14. Annefy Coolidge
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Have very recently had to fly from Nashville to San Antonio via DFW and back, then the next week from Nashville to San Antonio via IAH and back. Decided my brother-in-law in Fort Worth is correct: Drive!

    BTW things have changed considerably – and for the worse – since I flew regularly like 15 years ago, both the clientele and the flights.

    On my flight to TX, which was delayed on the tarmac for 3 hours, I was worried I was going to end up on a Tic Tok video. The flight was Las Vegas to Houston; I’d only paid $49 for the flight, I figured everyone on the flight probably paid similar.

    Four female flight attendants whose body language said loudly that they would be taking no prisoners and brook no dissent. Even the dozen or so young children behaved.

    It was a wonder to behold.

    Those children are one of the changes.

    If there had been $49 flights available, JY and I would have flown more when ours were small.

    I bet yours weren’t little screamers!

    I make no promises.

    • #14
  15. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    So, let me get this straight, customer service in the UK is worse than here?

    Why do the British put up with so much?

    Sad.

    As for the two women, that is what security is for.

    I have a lot of theories about why the Brits put up with so much; unfortunately it’s a very long tale that begins with WWI and probably isn’t very interesting. Suffice to say the Brits have lived generations with byzantine regulations and “authorities” of all sorts and are very comfortable with it.

    My parents (Scottish immigrants) never really lost the attitude. I had to school my mother constantly that she didn’t have to come up with some long-winded excuse about why she was returning something. 1) The salesperson didn’t care; 2) it was none of their business.

    As for the two women, I saw security called twice; they never showed. At least when I was there. So poor customer service at all levels.

    The security personnel probably didn’t want to deal with them. A good chance they might get a discrimination complaint filed against them by the two women.  

    • #15
  16. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    So, let me get this straight, customer service in the UK is worse than here?

    Why do the British put up with so much?

    Sad.

    As for the two women, that is what security is for.

    I have a lot of theories about why the Brits put up with so much; unfortunately it’s a very long tale that begins with WWI and probably isn’t very interesting. Suffice to say the Brits have lived generations with byzantine regulations and “authorities” of all sorts and are very comfortable with it.

    My parents (Scottish immigrants) never really lost the attitude. I had to school my mother constantly that she didn’t have to come up with some long-winded excuse about why she was returning something. 1) The salesperson didn’t care; 2) it was none of their business.

    As for the two women, I saw security called twice; they never showed. At least when I was there. So poor customer service at all levels.

    Too bad sounds like it would have been great to see those women tased.

    You crack me up every morning. Mostly because I know you’re serious. Just looking at your profile picture there and imagining you typing that has me still laughing. Perfect.

    • #16
  17. She Member
    She
    @She

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    So, let me get this straight, customer service in the UK is worse than here?

    Why do the British put up with so much?

    Sad.

    As for the two women, that is what security is for.

    I have a lot of theories about why the Brits put up with so much; unfortunately it’s a very long tale that begins with WWI and probably isn’t very interesting. Suffice to say the Brits have lived generations with byzantine regulations and “authorities” of all sorts and are very comfortable with it.

    My parents (Scottish immigrants) never really lost the attitude. I had to school my mother constantly that she didn’t have to come up with some long-winded excuse about why she was returning something. 1) The salesperson didn’t care; 2) it was none of their business.

    All very true.  The ingrained and traditional reverence of the British people for “authority” knows no bounds.  It used to work quite well when the society was homogenous and national aims were clear (both World Wars), but neither of those things is true anymore, and the explosion of petty tyranny–coupled with the widespread acceptance of incompetence, rudeness, and delay–permeates all aspects of life-public and private–in a country where poor customer service has the imprimatur of state approval.

    Nowhere is this more the case than in the NHS.  Imagine if you will, calling your state-assigned doctor’s office first thing in the morning because you’ve–say–a bad case of the flu.  Chills, fevers, ague, for several days and it’s not getting any better.  Finally, after getting a busy signal the first several times, and phoning back repeatedly, someone picks up the phone.

    “Sorry,” the receptionist says.  “We’re all booked up today.  You’ll have to call back tomorrow.”

    “Can’t I just make an appointment for tomorrow?” You ask.

    “Sorry.” (The Brits are always saying “sorry” without actually meaning it.)  “We only make appointments on “day of.”  You’ll have to phone back tomorrow.”

    Now, imagine that, country-wide.  Because that’s how it is.

    This can (and has in my family, more often than not) go on for days, during which time, if the patient gets worse, he ends up at “Ambulance and Emergency” where–if he’s lucky–he’ll be seen by a triage nurse (not treated) before twelve hours have passed and–if he’s not–he may sit for a couple of days before being seen.

    Too many in the British public have been duped into believing that their healthcare is “free,” and so they put up with it and don’t want to complain, because they know that if they do complain, “the authorities” will retaliate in some way, and they will end up paying for their intransigence. “Being a nuisance,” or “making a fuss” or even just standing up for yourself is considered very poor and transgressive behavior.  (This is a snapshot in time: All bets are off as to how things will look in another 75 years.)

    A single generation of my Dad’s family–he and his siblings–were remarkably deficient in this forelock-tugging attitude, and were regularly pointed to by my mother’s side of the family as examples of “how not to behave,” with the corresponding “Who do they think they are, and why do they think they are so special?” attitude.

    His children–we three who were raised both by Dad and in the United States–are proud to honor his memory by being as troublesome as possible, although I have to admit it’s far easier for me to do so from this side of the pond.

    • #17
  18. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She (View Comment):

    “Sorry,” the receptionist says.  “We’re all booked up today.  You’ll have to call back tomorrow.”

    “Can’t I just make an appointment for tomorrow?” You ask.

    “Sorry.” (The Brits are always saying “sorry” without actually meaning it.)  “We only make appointments on “day of.”  You’ll have to phone back tomorrow.”

    That would require the NHS to have a 20th century computerized booking system.

    C’mon, Nigel. Try to keep up with the rest of us.

    • #18
  19. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    So, let me get this straight, customer service in the UK is worse than here?

    Why do the British put up with so much?

    Sad.

    As for the two women, that is what security is for.

    I have a lot of theories about why the Brits put up with so much; unfortunately it’s a very long tale that begins with WWI and probably isn’t very interesting. Suffice to say the Brits have lived generations with byzantine regulations and “authorities” of all sorts and are very comfortable with it.

    My parents (Scottish immigrants) never really lost the attitude. I had to school my mother constantly that she didn’t have to come up with some long-winded excuse about why she was returning something. 1) The salesperson didn’t care; 2) it was none of their business.

    As for the two women, I saw security called twice; they never showed. At least when I was there. So poor customer service at all levels.

    Too bad sounds like it would have been great to see those women tased.

    You crack me up every morning. Mostly because I know you’re serious. Just looking at your profile picture there and imagining you typing that has me still laughing. Perfect.

    Glad to be of service! 

    • #19
  20. Chuck Coolidge
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    She (View Comment):

    Annefy (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    So, let me get this straight, customer service in the UK is worse than here?

    Why do the British put up with so much?

    Sad.

    As for the two women, that is what security is for.

    I have a lot of theories about why the Brits put up with so much; unfortunately it’s a very long tale that begins with WWI and probably isn’t very interesting. Suffice to say the Brits have lived generations with byzantine regulations and “authorities” of all sorts and are very comfortable with it.

    My parents (Scottish immigrants) never really lost the attitude. I had to school my mother constantly that she didn’t have to come up with some long-winded excuse about why she was returning something. 1) The salesperson didn’t care; 2) it was none of their business.

    All very true. The ingrained and traditional reverence of the British people for “authority” knows no bounds. It used to work quite well when the society was homogenous and national aims were clear (both World Wars), but neither of those things is true anymore, and the explosion of petty tyranny–coupled with the widespread acceptance of incompetence, rudeness, and delay–permeates all aspects of life-public and private–in a country where poor customer service has the imprimatur of state approval.

    Nowhere is this more the case than in the NHS. Imagine if you will, calling your state-assigned doctor’s office first thing in the morning because you’ve–say–a bad case of the flu. Chills, fevers, ague, for several days and it’s not getting any better. Finally, after getting a busy signal the first several times, and phoning back repeatedly, someone picks up the phone.

    “Sorry,” the receptionist says. “We’re all booked up today. You’ll have to call back tomorrow.”

    “Can’t I just make an appointment for tomorrow?” You ask.

    “Sorry.” (The Brits are always saying “sorry” without actually meaning it.) “We only make appointments on “day of.” You’ll have to phone back tomorrow.”

    Now, imagine that, country-wide. Because that’s how it is.

    This can (and has in my family, more often than not) go on for days, during which time, if the patient gets worse, he ends up at “Ambulance and Emergency” where–if he’s lucky–he’ll be seen by a triage nurse (not treated) before twelve hours have passed and–if he’s not–he may sit for a couple of days before being seen.

    Too many in the British public have been duped into believing that their healthcare is “free,” and so they put up with it and don’t want to complain, because they know that if they do complain, “the authorities” will retaliate in some way, and they will end up paying for their intransigence. “Being a nuisance,” or “making a fuss” or even just standing up for yourself is considered very poor and transgressive behavior. (This is a snapshot in time: All bets are off as to how things will look in another 75 years.)

    A single generation of my Dad’s family–he and his siblings–were remarkably deficient in this forelock-tugging attitude, and were regularly pointed to by my mother’s side of the family as examples of “how not to behave,” with the corresponding “Who do they think they are, and why do they think they are so special?” attitude.

    His children–we three who were raised both by Dad and in the United States–are proud to honor his memory by being as troublesome as possible, although I have to admit it’s far easier for me to do so from this side of the pond.

    Hmmm.  Could that be why it was so easy for a foreigner to obtain treatment by a British MD in Singapore years ago?

    • #20
  21. She Member
    She
    @She

    Percival (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    “Sorry,” the receptionist says. “We’re all booked up today. You’ll have to call back tomorrow.”

    “Can’t I just make an appointment for tomorrow?” You ask.

    “Sorry.” (The Brits are always saying “sorry” without actually meaning it.) “We only make appointments on “day of.” You’ll have to phone back tomorrow.”

    That would require the NHS to have a 20th century computerized booking system.

    C’mon, Nigel. Try to keep up with the rest of us.

    Funny, that.

    I remember (because I’m a healthcare IT veteran myself) early in this century when the NHS put out an RFP and did what passes for due diligence (if you’re the NHS) in order to select a country-wide electronic medical records and patient accounting system for dozens of “NHS Trusts.” (NHS Trusts are divisions within the NHS, generally set up to serve a region, or to network a group of hospitals and clinics offering a particular specialty service.)  The vendor at my own health system here in the US was one of the finalists, and there was some back-and-forth information-sharing between the NHS and ourselves at the time.

    Here’s a 2013 Guardian article describing  “one of the worst and most expensive contracting fiascos in the history of the public sector” and “the biggest IT failure ever seen” (emphasis mine).

    The project was launched in 2002 but was beset by changing specifications, technical challenges and disputes with suppliers which left it years behind schedule and over budget. In September 2011 ministers announced they would dismantle the National Programme but in an effort to salvage something from the failure said they would keep the component parts in place with separate management and accountability structures.

    I dunno what that means, but as far as I’m aware there’s no system in place after a quarter-century and after the expenditure–with nothing to show for it–of tens of billions of pounds .

    It’s a bit disturbing to find the “F” word buried in the article: Fujitsu. As in: “The department [terminated] Fujitsu’s contract for care records systems in the south…a pitiful waste,” and “[the] contract was dissolved in 2008 but the government and the Japanese firm are still in dispute over compensation.” (That would have been in 2013, five years later.)

    Of course it was Fujitsu’s “Horizon” system which caused the British  Post Office Scandal in which hundreds of innocent sub-postmasters were hounded–several unto suicide or their natural death–by false allegations of fraud and theft.  That one is referred to as the “biggest miscarriage of justice in British history” (emphasis mine). See Mr Bates vs The Post Office, and Getting their Reputatations Back–The Royal Mail Horizon Scandal Staggers to the Finish Line, Thanks to ITV.

    Lesson for the day: Things can always be worse. As I often say to my sister, “if I lived in the UK, I’d regularly be the lead story on the 11PM news….”

     

    • #21
  22. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Percival (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    “Sorry,” the receptionist says. “We’re all booked up today. You’ll have to call back tomorrow.”

    “Can’t I just make an appointment for tomorrow?” You ask.

    “Sorry.” (The Brits are always saying “sorry” without actually meaning it.) “We only make appointments on “day of.” You’ll have to phone back tomorrow.”

    That would require the NHS to have a 20th century computerized booking system.

    Or maybe a paper daily calendar  marked off in 15 minute increments.

     

    • #22
  23. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    “Sorry,” the receptionist says. “We’re all booked up today. You’ll have to call back tomorrow.”

    “Can’t I just make an appointment for tomorrow?” You ask.

    “Sorry.” (The Brits are always saying “sorry” without actually meaning it.) “We only make appointments on “day of.” You’ll have to phone back tomorrow.”

    That would require the NHS to have a 20th century computerized booking system.

    C’mon, Nigel. Try to keep up with the rest of us.

    Funny, that.

    I remember (because I’m a healthcare IT veteran myself) early in this century when the NHS put out an RFP and did what passes for due diligence (if you’re the NHS) in order to select a country-wide electronic medical records and patient accounting system for dozens of “NHS Trusts.” (NHS Trusts are divisions within the NHS, generally set up to serve a region, or to network a group of hospitals and clinics offering a particular specialty service.) The vendor at my own health system here in the US was one of the finalists, and there was some back-and-forth information-sharing between the NHS and ourselves at the time.

    Here’s a 2013 Guardian article describing “one of the worst and most expensive contracting fiascos in the history of the public sector” and “the biggest IT failure ever seen” (emphasis mine).

    The project was launched in 2002 but was beset by changing specifications, technical challenges and disputes with suppliers which left it years behind schedule and over budget. In September 2011 ministers announced they would dismantle the National Programme but in an effort to salvage something from the failure said they would keep the component parts in place with separate management and accountability structures.

    I dunno what that means, but as far as I’m aware there’s no system in place after a quarter-century and after the expenditure–with nothing to show for it–of tens of billions of pounds .

    It’s a bit disturbing to find the “F” word buried in the article: Fujitsu. As in: “The department [terminated] Fujitsu’s contract for care records systems in the south…a pitiful waste,” and “[the] contract was dissolved in 2008 but the government and the Japanese firm are still in dispute over compensation.” (That would have been in 2013, five years later.)

    Of course it was Fujitsu’s “Horizon” system which caused the British Post Office Scandal in which hundreds of innocent sub-postmasters were hounded–several unto suicide or their natural death–by false allegations of fraud and theft. That one is referred to as the “biggest miscarriage of justice in British history” (emphasis mine). See Mr Bates vs The Post Office, and Getting their Reputatations Back–The Royal Mail Horizon Scandal Staggers to the Finish Line, Thanks to ITV.

    Lesson for the day: Things can always be worse. As I often say to my sister, “if I lived in the UK, I’d regularly be the lead story on the 11PM news….”

     

    When I was reading through what you wrote about the NHS fiasco, I was going to mention Horizon as being worse, if only because innocent postmasters were being prosecuted for someone else’s bookkeeping errors.

    • #23
  24. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    She (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    “Sorry,” the receptionist says. “We’re all booked up today. You’ll have to call back tomorrow.”

    “Can’t I just make an appointment for tomorrow?” You ask.

    “Sorry.” (The Brits are always saying “sorry” without actually meaning it.) “We only make appointments on “day of.” You’ll have to phone back tomorrow.”

    That would require the NHS to have a 20th century computerized booking system.

    C’mon, Nigel. Try to keep up with the rest of us.

    Funny, that.

    I remember (because I’m a healthcare IT veteran myself) early in this century when the NHS put out an RFP and did what passes for due diligence (if you’re the NHS) in order to select a country-wide electronic medical records and patient accounting system for dozens of “NHS Trusts.” (NHS Trusts are divisions within the NHS, generally set up to serve a region, or to network a group of hospitals and clinics offering a particular specialty service.) The vendor at my own health system here in the US was one of the finalists, and there was some back-and-forth information-sharing between the NHS and ourselves at the time.

    Here’s a 2013 Guardian article describing “one of the worst and most expensive contracting fiascos in the history of the public sector” and “the biggest IT failure ever seen” (emphasis mine).

    The project was launched in 2002 but was beset by changing specifications, technical challenges and disputes with suppliers which left it years behind schedule and over budget. In September 2011 ministers announced they would dismantle the National Programme but in an effort to salvage something from the failure said they would keep the component parts in place with separate management and accountability structures.

    I dunno what that means, but as far as I’m aware there’s no system in place after a quarter-century and after the expenditure–with nothing to show for it–of tens of billions of pounds .

    It’s a bit disturbing to find the “F” word buried in the article: Fujitsu. As in: “The department [terminated] Fujitsu’s contract for care records systems in the south…a pitiful waste,” and “[the] contract was dissolved in 2008 but the government and the Japanese firm are still in dispute over compensation.” (That would have been in 2013, five years later.)

    Of course it was Fujitsu’s “Horizon” system which caused the British Post Office Scandal in which hundreds of innocent sub-postmasters were hounded–several unto suicide or their natural death–by false allegations of fraud and theft. That one is referred to as the “biggest miscarriage of justice in British history” (emphasis mine). See Mr Bates vs The Post Office, and Getting their Reputatations Back–The Royal Mail Horizon Scandal Staggers to the Finish Line, Thanks to ITV.

    Lesson for the day: Things can always be worse. As I often say to my sister, “if I lived in the UK, I’d regularly be the lead story on the 11PM news….”

     

    Mr Bates is a great film. 

    • #24
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