Going digital could be the death of customers

This week I think I deserve the Nobel Prize, as I have solved the problem of world hunger and our ageing population. How? By simply implementing government policy.

I read a report the other day that said the Government is encouraging all departments and local authorities to implement a “digital by default” approach to their services – namely, that if you didn’t have access to a computer with an internet connection, and the skills to use it, you would struggle to access certain services – from booking an appointment to see your doctor to taxing your car.

Given that many less well off parts of the population are also the less technologically aware, and many will live in rural parts of the country, does that mean they will stop being able to access the very services that they probably need more than most?

It’s not only the Government. I recently drove through southern England and came across one of the oldest monuments in the country – Stonehenge. I had not seen it since I was a kid, so thought I would have a wander round. But little did I know that it can only be accessed if you have pre-booked a time slot on the internet. Not sure what the druids would have thought of that!

And then this week, my wife tried to redirect post from the house that she is selling, which is in her maiden name, to our matrimonial home in married names. Alas, Royal Mail has also gone digital, and you can only do this online if the bank card that you pay with has the same billing address of the original address, which if course it doesn’t.

The digital age is upon us and we have to embrace it. However, many of our customers and processes are from a different age, and rushing headlong from one world to the next is a recipe for disaster. As marketers, we have an important role to fight for our customers on this, as finance directors and civil service mandarins argue for the cost efficiencies of a digital-only service, when the consequences could be to kill off a quarter of the customer base we want to serve, by starving them of service.

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