Travelling in cyberspace

16th of March 2011

ECJ's UK correspondent examines how the cleaning industry is making use of the internet.

First a most sincere wish for a happy and successful New Year to everyone. The winter break sometimes leads to a bonanza of news  and one or two stories have caught our eye. Tony Blair, a man loved on one continent and reviled in others, was keynote speaker at the ISSA/INTERCLEAN USA exhibition in Orlando.

This produced a news headline referring to Blair speaking to "an association of toilet paper manufacturers".  The story even migrated to the satirical quiz show Have I got News for You (snigger, snigger). What is so funny about toilet paper?

A note of caution for all. Stupendous efforts are being made to involve everyone with the internet. There is constant talk of ‘blogs’, ‘broadband’ and ‘discounts for buying online'. There are advertisements encouraging the elderly to learn internet and other computer skills. All splendid in their way but there are 12 million people who do not have access to broadband or any other electronic cyber space miracle.

Web experience

Our experience in seeking to purchase a small item of cleaning equipment shows some of the common faults. We began by typing the word ‘cleaning’ into the appropriate place on the internet. This produced a vast array of companies offering anything from baked beans to night clubs and escort agencies. However it also yielded a company of which we had heard so through its email address we approached it.

The item we wanted was in stock, a discount was offered and we proceeded down the path to placing the order. Our name and address, telephone number and other information were demanded. We were advised that the company would give our name to various other ‘reputable’ organisations who would inform us of their wares: if we did not tick the box (the only box not requiring a tick).

All went well until the question of payment arose. We completed all the necessary credit details except a question on the card series which our card does not require. Ticking ‘proceed’ the machine decided that it could not, since we had not offered a series number. As we had spent much time on this we clicked on ‘Contact us’. This yielded a telephone number. We dialled and were informed that the number was no longer in use but to dial a different number which was a mobile. We rang but alas there was no answer. We went elsewhere.

The lesson for suppliers, seduced by the lure of the website, is to make sure your information is up to date and accurate. In our travels in cyber world we often find websites last updated as long as four years ago. This costs money and orders, and results in many frustrated customers. If you telephone you are often directed to the website as a speedy means of solving your problem. Generally speaking it won’t nor will it be speedy. Many companies respond at once saying: “Our customer care team (there’s a laugh) will answer your query within three working days. If not please call again.”

Wikileaks has a lesson for us all. The web is not a confidential way of conveying information. Enthusiasm by the banks to persuade people to bank online is a siren song based on their desire to increase profits by not using people to help us (when and if they do, they seldom understand your problem anyway).

It has been said: "The best way to get information is to go to the door and shout."


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