Coming soon: online service

I worry that some organisations still don't get this whole internet thing. I know that I shouldn't be so judgemental. Some companies are small and don't have the resources or expertise to devote to the virtual world.

I worry that some organisations still don't get this whole internet thing.

I know that I shouldn't be so judgemental. Some companies are small and don't have the resources or expertise to devote to the virtual world. Take our wine producers. Why just the other day I was told they don't think much of the internet because they live in rural New Zealand and can't host their own websites easily due to a lack of broadband capacity. I rang a few to see if this was true, and to tell them they don't need to have broadband to have a website so long as their hosting company has plenty, but down at the vineyard they don't appear to answer their phones either.

I have a particular enjoyment of Griffin's Gingernut teddy bears. However, my local supermarket seems to have stopped stocking them. So has the other supermarket I occasionally go to, and all the others I saw over summer. So I visited Griffins' website and was greeted by the immortal words "Coming soon". But there was a place where you could email enquiries, so I did.

Weeks ago.

Apparently my answer will be coming soon as well, just as soon as someone notices it lying dormant in an inbox somewhere.

I don't mean to single Griffins out for particular scrutiny. They're just one of many. Contacting people online is at least as fraught as buying online, as any likeminded reader of Jim Swanson's column will attest. Don't get me started on contact details -- if I see another website that only has an online form and no phone number, it will be too soon.

I have a daughter, as even the less observant of you will probably know. Being a Brit and having had a long and extensively tedious (not to mention costly) relationship with the British High Commission in Wellington, I thought it might be a good idea to get the ball rolling now to have her listed as a UK citizen.

The High Commission now has a website, which astonished me. It has dozens of pages of useful and relevant information. If you want to travel to the UK it will tell you all about visas, passports, quarantine regulations, the lot. If you've never heard of the queen you can find out about royal jubilees and things of this ilk. It even has one section devoted to applying for a British passport and another dedicated to applying for UK passport -- though I'm buggered if I know the difference.

What it doesn't appear to tell you is what you have to do to make sure your 10-month old daughter born in New Zealand to a Kiwi mother and British father can get a UK passport when the time comes.

So I emailed using the form on the site.

Oddly, while being ignored by the British High Commission isn't a new feeling for me, an email ignore makes me mad. I don't know quite why.

The list of online woes goes on, I can assure you. A friend of mine has recently started work in Auckland and his very pregnant wife has remained in Wellington. He's made several trips back and forth, including one last-minute rush to the airport (he made it home in time, you'll be pleased to know), and each time he's booked his ticket at the last minute. I asked him why he doesn't book online and his answer astonished me. It's cheaper for him to walk up to the counter and say "When's your next flight to Wellington?" than it is to book online. That's right. And not by a couple of dollars either, but by a truckload. I watched him do it. He's saved himself a fortune in bandwidth charges and tickets by simply strolling in off the street and halving the price quoted on the website.

Come on people. This is not what it's all about. It's about communication -- making it easier to find information you need, making it cheaper to interact with your customers so you can save money and save the hassle. It's about using a rich new medium to help you and everyone in your supply chain.


Or perhaps it's still in the "Coming soon" basket.

Brislen is IDGNet’s reporter. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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