Very Old Fashioned Mistakes

In our industry there is a perception that all our problems and all our solutions are about technology. This is not the case.

Just down a country road near here is a house. In one half of this house lives a farmer, with his wife and daughter. In the other half of the house lives a retired couple.

The retired couple decided to change their phone provider. This involved changing their phone number. The farmer who lives in the other half of the house received a letter saying that the work was going to be done on a certain date. He thought it was considerate of the company to let him know – there might, he thought, be disruption while the work was being done.

The retired couple got their new service and were very happy. The farmer lost his phone service for six weeks. He spent over 12 hours on the phone to the two phone companies that were involved. He got nowhere. Nobody would take the blame or responsibility. The farmer knew that I did ‘something in telecommunications’ and, at the end of his tether, asked me to help.

So, I got cross for him. Someone in his service provider’s chairman’s office took charge and we made progress. It seemed that not only had be lost his service, he had lost his number, which had been archived and lost in the ‘no longer needed number’ database.

It took a month from the moment I got involved to get the service re-instated, including a false start when the farmer got his service back only to lose it again two hours later. It turned out the engineer did not have the right screwdriver.

Apparently this happens quite a lot. A database has a customer’s name on it, followed by an address. There is an assumption (whether technical or human) that the customer is the only occupant of this address. If there is no clue (e.g. Flat 1, Douglas House, or Sunnyview Cottage West) then when someone says they want to change service or change number there is a danger that people will get disconnected.

Once disconnected the service provider will, as in this case, lose six weeks’ revenue, have to pay compensation, suffer the cost of re-instating everything and generally suffer negative PR as well.

This was an example from the quiet, uncluttered countryside. Imagine the chaos (and loss of revenue) if this happened on a housing estate with addresses such Flat 125, Nelson House and the database missed the first part of the address.

Not all our problems are hi-tech ones.

Alex Leslie
Alex Leslie
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He publishes DisruptiveViews, incorporating sister publication BillingViews.