Public sector / Private sector comparison day

For one reason or another, it’s been a while since I used my car (actually, just over three months). This weekend, with the temperature nudging 25 degrees (that’s about 80 in old money for you Americans), I took it out for a ride. It started first time without even a glitch. I remember when I used to leave my cars at airports while making trips for 2 or 3 weeks and always having to call out the car park’s inhouse battery resuscitators before I get going. Things have got better.

This weekend, I also needed to renew my car insurance. I shopped around and found a good quote online. After a few attempts at filling in the forms, it was clear I wasn’t going to get far. The online form (from a major, reputable, direct insurance company) would’t take either my address or my car registration plate. So I phoned up and, no, there was no channel integration so I had to give all the details again (at least five times – there seemed to be an accent understanding problem). Eventually I got there (with a quick pit stop for me to go and get the chassis number of the car as they couldn’t get the registration to take either) and the car’s now insured.

It seems to me that this channel integration problem is going to run and run. You only have to look at how sites encourage you to use any or all of them now (my attention was drawn today to NHSdirect, which lists the phone number very prominently on every page) interchangeably. But that inevitably leads to a conversation that includes “I sent you an email yesterday … The message I left on your answerphone … On your mobile … The form on the website says … I don’t have that form …”. We’re not ready for channel hopping and few of us are ready to force anyone down a single channel. That’s going to create some ugly clashes over the coming year or two as we race to catchup. A few local authorities seem to have successfully integrated a CRM system – I hope that whatever they have done can be leveraged because I am sure that there are valuable lessons to be learned.

But until we crack the channel hopping, expect some of the online experiences to be disjointed. You’ll send in a claim form, but won’t be able to follow-up. You’ll be able to pay online, but not get an email confirmation that you’ve paid. You’ll be able to call for help, but not get a text message to confirm that your payment is on its way to your bank account. That’s pretty hard stuff that’s going to take some time to crack.

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