I’m not saying new technology is out of control – OK, well, I will say it. Some very clever people are capable of some very stupid things, like imagining that Voice Recognition would be a boon and a benefit to people phoning government departments.
This afternoon I really needed to speak to someone at National Insurance. I telephoned the number and a very nice computer voice asked me to tell her what I wanted. It’s about the changes to Class 2 Contributions I told her. She said she’d put me through.
It took 20 minutes, which was the first hurdle. But then, when a man eventually deigned to answer, he admitted that he was in PAYE, which is not only the wrong department, it’s even in a completely different city! I said I’d like to complain and he agreed that he’d like to know how to do that too.
The second time I phoned I got the same woman, computerised, and repeated the stuff about Class 2. This time it took 30 minutes to send me to the wrong department. This time I was in Juvenile and Unregistered Numbers. I told the man my problem, and he said, Well, I used to work in Class 2, so maybe I can help. When I told him my problem, he seemed to have trouble believing me, so insisted on looking up the web pages on his own computer. I heard what he said, to himself. He said, ‘Good Grief’. He seemed to disbelieve what he was seeing too. Still, I told him there was more: try the next page, I said, and he gasped again. Then he tried filling in the form and got as far as I did.
Having failed to solve my problem, he sent me to the Online Help Desk, which I really didn’t want. Still, they had the answer. Tick the ‘No’ box, they said. But the answer is ‘Yes’, I told them. We know that, they agreed, but you have to say No if you want the proper form. It will arrive in 3 to 7 days. That’s feels just about as long a time as I’ve been hanging on this phone, I told them. We have our doubts about the Voice Recognition. It doesn’t work, I told them. Lots of people have said that, they said. We’d like to know how to complain too.