WRITTEN ON September 16th, 2007 BY Richard Allan AND STORED IN Design: user-oriented, Save Time and Money, What do we want?, Wibbipedia/MindtheGap
A friend recently went to the doctor to be told that they should have received a letter weeks before asking them to come in for some important tests. Like me, they live in London where we are at the sharp end of experiencing an unreliable postal service.
For example, I live in a house with 7 flats. Each morning a large bundle of post comes through the door that we sort into pigeon holes. It seems like at least once a week there is a letter in there that should have gone to another address, so presumably something that should have come here goes astray with the same frequency. We have also experienced letters arriving with postmarks from weeks or even months before.
But, more or less everyone has a mobile phone. So, if you know the post is unreliable and a message is important, why not set your system up to automatically send an SMS to the recipient when you send a letter with a number to call if it doesn’t arrive in a reasonable time. The costs of bulk SMS are marginal and would be outweighed by the greater efficiency for all parties.
Then we can go beyond this to ask why letters are being used at all. The mobile phone is an ideal personal communications device for getting information quickly to people, especially in a place like London where they move around a lot. When you register for a health service you could give your number and agree a password/PIN to confirm your identity. For a routine message like ‘please call us to book an appointment’ you can send an SMS and the recipient calls back, gives the password or PIN to confirm it is the right person and off you go. Savings all round in cost, time etc.
Of course some people may prefer paper mail and don’t like automated call systems but the joy of a multi-channel world built around a good register of communications preferences is that we can all have our preferred methods. The current state of the art is deficient in many services in not having the capability to allow those of us who want to use cheaper electronic means to do so at all. My personal call is – I hate having to deal with paper mail and I fear its unreliability, I think on good grounds, so please don’t make me use it when I can offer a better alternative.