After many months we’ve finally removed almost all our banking from the appalling Santander, formerly known as Abbey.
However, there have been the inevitable glitches as numerous direct debits and standing orders are moved from Santander to our new bank.
Most of the glitches have been sorted with ease but a few have run onto the rocks that are business computer and data handling systems.
Take, for example, our life insurance policies.
The OH and I each have a policy with Aviva. The premiums are paid by direct debit at the end of the month.
Our new primary bank account was set up more than a month ago, sufficient money was paid in to cover an assortment of outgoings, and the direct debits were transferred from Santander to that account—well before the end of the month.
Most of the direct debits went ahead, including the farm insurance policy that is also with Aviva.
The direct debits for the two life insurance policies failed to go through. They weren’t taken from the old Santander account, nor were they taken from the new account.
I contacted Aviva and explained the situation: we’re moving bank accounts, the life insurance premiums weren’t taken from either account, can we pay the premiums now, and get we get the direct debits sorted.
Aviva, like many large corporations, no longer employs frontline staff who know the system, have a brain, and know how to use both.
Instead, they employ people who have been to charm—or smarm—school and do basic data entry when their computer prompts them.
So what happened when I explained my problem to the Aviva rep?
The call centre representative had to follow the computer prompts, so instead of listening to my problem he had to tell me our address was incorrect.
As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, increasing numbers of businesses are changing their computer systems so they only accept “standard” addresses that have the format: House name/number, Street Name, Post Town, Post Code.
We live off a rural road that has no name. If no one queries the computer system, there’s no problem and letters continue to come to us.
But as soon as anyone opens our file on a computer system that has been updated to use a “standard” address, the computers throw up a prompt to tell the call centre operator that our address is incorrect and they need to get the correct address from us.
If the operator doesn’t have the answer the computer demands, they can’t progress the script further. (The “solution” is to put a fake street name into the system, something like “NoName Road”.)
And that’s what eventually happened with Aviva.
Of course, the Aviva representative still couldn’t deal with our problem. Now, our phone number was no longer valid because our address details had changed on the system.
The rep had to ask for our phone numbers, then had to update whether they were day, night, work, or a combination thereof.
Finally, we returned to our problem, by which time the rep had forgotten what it was and I had to explain it again.
The rep then informed me that the problem was outside his remit and he had to talk to someone else. I was put on hold.
Eventually, the rep came back to ask me to explain the problem again.
I did. It seemed the person he spoke to couldn’t deal with the problem and he’d need to talk to the Premiums team. I was put on hold.
The rep came back and said the Premiums team had put him on hold. I was put on hold.
The rep came back and said the direct debits had been refused by both banks.
Fair enough, I said, can I pay the premiums now and set up new direct debits?
Unfortunately, no. The computer wouldn’t let the rep do that. He’d have to talk to the Premiums team. I was put on hold. He was put on hold. I was put on hold.
Eventually, the rep told me the computer system should have sent the OH and I letters to say our direct debits had not been paid.
The letters would have given us instructions on what to do and given us 14 days to follow those instructions.
By phoning Aviva to say we’d noticed the premiums had not been collected, we’d circumvented the system by contacting them before the letters went out and we shouldn’t have done that as the system couldn’t work with that approach.
Instead, we are to wait until letters arrive saying we are in arrears and then contact Aviva in the appropriate time frame and following the instructions given.
The problem will then be resolved. Hopefully.
What is it about businesses and their computer systems that imposes this sort of daft, pedantic and rigid approach to solving fairly minor problems that a half-intelligent human used to be able to solve in a few minutes?