Date Published: 23-Mar-2011
There are few more infuriating consequences of modern technology than the automated phone service, when you ring a number looking to talk to someone and you find yourself having to go through more numbers than a Minister for Finance before you finally give up anyway in utter exasperation.
But the VHI, God bless them, have taken this automated phone service notion to a whole new level – because now they use a robot to ring you.
So your phone rings and you pick it up and say hello, to be greeted seconds later by the female automaton who moonlights as the monotone voice on the sat nav, utterly devoid of any emotion or excitement as she launches into her sales pitch.
“This is an automated call from VHI Healthcare,” she drones.
“We have a wide range of something or other – would you like to be put through to…..” presumably, a human being to discuss your health care options.
Having recovered from the skipped heartbeat of infuriation that the VHI should ring me, a human customer, and not had the manners to put a human being on the end to make the call, I hung up before I had a stroke and had to take my chances with MRSA and the spring version of the winter vomiting bug in my local friendly, underperforming hospital.
Bu had I stayed on the line to talk to the VHI’s R2-D2, I probably could have enjoyed several minutes of one-sided interaction with a computer while the health insurance heads worked out how best to ensure consultants’ earnings are maximised from their private practices.
“Press one to skip the trolleys in A&E,” my inanimate friend might have said; “press two if you want to have your hips replaced before your legs fall off; press three for cataract surgery if you can still see three on the phone.”
“Press the hash key if you’d like to come in for a routine examination and pretend that you stayed overnight so that your consultant can lease out your bed to four different patients for four different overnight procedures all on the same date.
“You can talk to our remaining member of staff at any stage during this process by pressing in the correct order the numerical sequence that explains Archimedes’ quadrature of the parabola – and be prepared to wait, because we’ve cut back on real staff so that consultants can still make ends meet on those quarter of a million euro a year contracts.”
The sad side-effect of computerisation and technology is that you no longer have to talk to anyone to get your business done – and the VHI has taken it on to a higher level by not only offering an automated reception when you ring, but also a computerised cold-caller when you might otherwise be busy at work.
You can now bank online, pay your road tax, bin charges and television licence by computer, book holidays and hotel stays without every even darkening the door of a human being; you can travel by train, plane or automobile by booking on the internet, and you can do your shopping at your local supermarket without leaving the comfort of the couch.
Sometimes this is a good thing – you might not want to talk to some bored or frustrated bank teller or insurance salesperson – but most of the time, a little human interaction is no bad thing.
Sometimes a country comes up with a very clever idea – like the Danes who have come up with a very clever way of using your mobile phone when you’re stuck for a stamp.
From April 1, letter-writing Danes will be able to send a text message to pay the postage on a letter when the new Mobile Postage Service does away with stamps for standard sized letters.
Instead, people will send a text to the post office and get back a code they write on the envelope.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Galway County VEC Chief takes High Court case
Date Published: 07-May-2013
The High Court is hearing arguments from the state in an action brought by two VEC bosses who are challenging the loss of an annual allowance worth 12 and a half thousand euro.
Former president of the GAA Joe McDonagh who’s the CEO of County Galway VEC and Dr Katie Sweeney, CEO of Mayo VEC, say a special Transport Liaison Officers Allowance should not have been cut, even though that part of their role no longer operates.
Lawyers for the Department of Education deny the allowance is part of their pay.
The case is in the context of planned changes within the VEC system under the Croke Park agreement.
Planning go ahead for community facility in Doughiska
Date Published: 09-May-2013
A hotel in the city is to be changed into a community facility.
Planning permission has been granted to DRA Community Development Company Limited to redevelop the ‘Racing Lodge Hotel’ in Doughiska.
It’s planned to use the building for community, educational and pastoral use.
Planners have attached 4 conditions to the development, including the stipulation that all uses at the building be on a not-for-profit basis.
Galway call for Transport Minister to intervene in bus strike
Date Published: 13-May-2013
City Councillor Michael Crowe is calling on the Transport Minister Leo Vradkar to urgently intervene to end strike action by Bus Eireann in Galway.
Major travel disruption is expected in Galway and nationwide as the national strike enters its second day.
Bus drivers are protesting against five million euro worth of cuts to their overtime and premium pay – which Bus Eireann says are vital to ensure the future viability of the company.
Up to 20 Bus Éireann drivers are continuing their picket outside the bus depot at the docks in the city.
It’s understood up to 80 Galway workers took part in the picket on rotational rosters yesterday.
Speaking on Galway Talks, City Cllr Michael Crowe said Minister Vradkar needs to take urgent action to intervene so that transport services can be restored.