Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fanfare for the Common Man - a tech fairy tale

(how technology is improving our lives - and other such fairy tales)


Technology has revolutionized and democratized life. The Financial Services and telecom sectors have invested in it heavily in the interests of better customer experience and efficiency. The following experience illustrates this, real-life.

Visited the bank to change my address in their records. I’d shifted.

Bank Officer : Sir, please fill out this form. And we’ll need an address proof. (...lists documents)
The form includes everything about me - not just my name, bank account number and the new address.
Me  :    So this will be effected on my Credit Card as well?
BO  :   No, Sir...there is this other form to fill....(gives me a second form to fill)
Me  :   But isn’t the Credit Card section part of your bank? Why do I need to do this again?
BO  :   Sir, they are a separate department and the forms are consolidated in their section in....xxx city.
Me  :    So you have two separate database entries on me?!!!!!!
BO   :   Yes, Sir. That is our system.
Me   :   Is that why the credit card department had my date of birth recorded wrong? They entered it separately.
BO   : Possibly, Sir.
Me   :   And for verification on a transaction, they told me I had given a wrong date of birth. Amazing, I can’t remember my own date-of-birth correctly according to them.
BO   : And Sir, we’ll need a photograph.
Me    :  I’ve changed my address, not my face. Why do you need yet another photo?
BO    :  Sir, its part of the KYC (know your customer) procedure.
Me     :  So without another photo, you don’t know me? Don’t you  have a camera here to take the pic?
BO     : Sir, we need one for the form.
Me      : But you digitize it for your database, don’t you? and you don’t have a camera at hand? Why don’t you use your webcam? Unless you need a resolution that captures the length of my eyelashes.
BO   :  (nervous laugh).
Me :   Why do I have to fill out the other stuff? You already have my existing address. With my bank Account No: and photo on your computer, you know its me.
BO  :  Sir, ok - I’ll fill that out (and then she fills it out!!). But wait, you account is at Gotham city (name changed to protect identity) and not here?
Me  :  Yes, that’s why I’m changing the address to here. I’ve shifted to Metropolis.
BO :  Sir, then you have to give this at your Gotham City  branch.
Me :   So I have to take a 3 hour flight to Gotham to submit this, since you’re computerized system doesn’t know who I am,....even if I can withdraw cash from this branch? and you can’t verify who I am, even I’m sitting in front of you with my ID.
BO : Sir, that is the procedure.
Me :   By telling you I’ve shifted, I’m doing you a favor. Its my money in the bank, accessible anywhere..so I really don’t care if your records are obsolete. Either I can do this right now..or its your problem finding me.
After conversation with Branch Manager with this crisis....
BO and BM :   Sir, why don’t you use phone banking and make the change. They’ll do so immediately.
Me  :   Great, then why didn’t you tell me in the first place so I didn’t have to fill up this long form.Its okay to do it from Timbuktu on phone, but when I come in person to the bank I have to fill out a form with document? Wow!
BO :   Sir, (hahaha). You are right, but that’s the system.

Now I had to do the same for my phone - mobile.

Phone Officer :   Sir, you need to contact  Extort-o-fone Gotham City to cancel your old number.
Me    :    Why can’t you do this on your computer right now? I’m here.
PO    :   Sir, that is our procedure. And please fill out this form.
Me     :    Other than address, nothing has changed
PO     :    Sir, its the system - please fill out the full form.
Me      :   Please transfer the balance from the old number to the new one.
PO     :   Sir, this is a new connection in a different circle....so we have to close the old number done. Which will be done in the next billing cycle.
Me      :   But I’m the same customer and its within my credit limit permitted. Why do I have to pay for 21 days of a Billing Cycle when you know I’m not going to use the number.
PO     :   Sir, but that is procedure we have to follow.

So Extortofone bills me for 21 days on a dead number. With efficiency, they refund my deposit on it after 60 days.  If my bill payment is delayed 10 days, the phone connection is cut-off. Its a very fair deal, I suppose.  They invest heavily in customer relationships and have a customer care executive for you if you’ve been a long standing customer. I have, for about 15 years. The CCE calls me up once a week for no particular reason at all. He even assures me that the refund will come in 60 days. I should be a satisfied long-standing customer, but I’ve become grumpy with age. Its my fault.

We must be an emerging economic power ready to storm the globe and a superpower in IT. Technology has really made our lives a lot better. They now transfer the paper onto computers, so we can print out additional copies of application forms that we’ve filled. Why do we need copies of our filled applications? I don’t know....it a technology savvy thing to do.

So about a decade and a few zillion bucks later, we’ve now shifted to technology-enabled bureaucracy in the enterprising, customer oriented private sector.  Just in comparison, my last tryst with government was renewing my Driving Licence. They mailed it home by registered post the next day after my application. Besides the form, I didn’t even have to give them a photograph. They had a digital camera.

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