Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Inaccurate information can be worse than none

We live in an information-rich world. With the internet at our fingertips, we can access what we need in moments. And companies are getting better at providing us with useful information and facilities. I heave a sigh of relief when I go to a restaurant's website, for instance, and discover I can book online, rather than go through that exercise of ringing up where you either a) get no answer, b) get an answerphone that doesn't take a message, c) get an answerphone that does take a message, but then are never sure if they took your booking, or d) speak to someone who makes it clear that you have to be an idiot to be making a booking so close to the date, as they are always very busy.

This information bounty has even stretched to that bane of life, the home delivery. Time was when you sat in all day on the off chance the delivery driver deigned to call. As it happens, working from home, so I have it easy compared to many people. But even I have problems as most days I pop out a few times. Walk the dog, nip to the post office, hit the corner shop. And you can guarantee that the delivery driver, who has clearly been sitting at the end of the road watching my house, waiting for me to go out, will pick the middle of the five minutes I'm out to attempt a delivery.

One option is the ability to pick your package up somewhere convenient. That's great if you are a commuter, and can do a pick-up on your way home. But I'd still rather have something delivered, particularly if it weighs a ton. And to my rescue comes that shining example of information excellence, the delivery slot.

The first people I remember doing this was the food delivery companies, but now several of the better known courier services do it. How I laughed when I first got an email from DPD like the one above and discovered I was getting a delivery between 9:22 and 10:22. But aside from the comical time range, it's a brilliant collection of information. When it will be delivered, who the driver is (not sure why I should know, but nice touch) and easy access to reschedule or track. Admittedly I didn't initially trust the time range, but to date they have had clockwork precision.

So when I was expecting an urgent parcel yesterday, it was a relief to see this text:
Admittedly there was that suspicious 'is estimated', but their website was more cheerful, telling me it would be delivered in the time range. So at ten past two I merrily took the dog for a 10 minute quick walk - only to discover on my return this depressing piece of paper:

Call me old fashioned, but 14:20 is not between 15:32 and 16:32 on my clock. Not by a long margin.

So, I eventually get to my point. Information like this is great - it really helps you organise your life. As long as it's correct. But if it's not, it makes matters worse. If I had expected the driver might turn up during my walk I would have stuck a note on the door saying I'd be back in 5 mins and with my mobile number. In this case I didn't bother, as I knew he* wasn't due for over an hour. And so the bad information was worse than no information at all.

Conclusion? This kind of thing is great, and I accept it will go wrong occasionally (we'll see if it happens again when they try to redeliver today), but once you start giving out time slots you ought to do everything you can to stick to them - and if you miss your slot, the company ought to know this and offer instant grovelling apologies. As yet, that highly informative squiggle on the card above is the only response I've had to their cockup.

* To avoid accusations of lazy gender stereotyping (why should the van driver be male?), I actually saw him as he drove away just as I got back to the house.

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