Over the last couple of weeks I have had the pleasure of trying to get in touch with people in the public and quasi-public sector.
Boy, has it been hard and this is from someone who, for a long time was inside the system.
My efforts have been part of a Low Power Wide Area Network project I am helping out with and I needed to get in touch with various people across the region. At this stage I wasn’t asking them for much, only for them to acknowledge my attempts.
I emailed everyone that I could find. That in itself was a problem. Trying to find who is the right person to get in touch with was relatively easy but an email address was much harder. Most organizations just present a generic address, usually buried away deep within their web pages and so a lot of guesswork is required. Sometimes it is right and others require a bit more sleuthing.
Once I had found an email address that stuck the next issue was getting people to respond. The vast majority of people just don’t bother. Only those that I new personally came back to me and all the rest required me to ring them up and ask for a response.
That was my third problem. Phone numbers are not obvious and again are usually just generic. They usually take you through to a call centre which leads to a long delay listening to some inane music only to be interrupted by a message telling me I could find what I needed on their website. I couldn’t hence the call. Waiting for over 10 minutes was not uncommon. Getting no response before I had to move on to the next thing wasn’t either.
It is clear that these organizations don’t want the direct contact.
I can only assume that the aim is to drive traffic onto other channels. The irony is though that if I had had a response in the first place there would be no need for me to clog up the contact centre. So called unnecessary contact. Not unecessary for me yet certainly for the organizations I was contacting.
I know that the public sector gets bombarded by all sorts of requests and some of them are useful and some not yet they are all important to the person making the contact.
There has to be a better way.
Please, if you work in the public sector and someone writes to you personally, at least do them the courtesy of a response, even if it is just to say no thanks.