Thursday, 21 March 2013

Kafka is alive, well & keeping you on hold

666 isn't the number of the beast. It's 0845 600 1651.

My heart goes out to anybody who has to deal with the Kafkaesque torture system of the UK's Benefit Enquiry Line. 

First of all it's on 0854 number, not 0800, so it costs you, especially if you're on a mobile or don't have a landline as many of the users will.

You have to wait at least half an hour for a human to answer your call while a condescending robot woman tells you that you could call between 8am and 9am as they are less busy then (inferring that most jobseekers aren't up by then). I should also add that your claims cannot be dealt with at any job center or online so you HAVE to use this number if you have any enquiries, questions or god forbid, need their help. 

If you are lucky enough to win the loser's lottery and get your call answered then you face a byzantine security system that Indiana Jones would swerve as being too secure for his time. I appreciate the need for security but this is what happens when you take the human element out of system design. It has trouble dealing with the possibility that you might have moved within the past 18 months. 

I failed the first time, despite it being on my specialist subject of myself, and the poor guy at the end couldn't even access his own security database to tell me what I had got wrong - it had locked him out. After another half an hour, on my second call, I got around this because they were running a pilot scheme that luckily gave him access to the questions so he could see what the answers were and give me more opportunities. 

I should add that I consider myself fairly literate and numerate and if I have this amount of trouble with this system, how the hell do some of the other jobseekers, with language, comprehension and stress issues begin to manage?

If you pay UK taxes then this matters. I guess I have high expectations. Spending four years in a country with mainly efficient, pleasant customer service operations that aim to solve the customers problems will do that.