Your Call Is Important To Us

Imagine a single phone number for every government service.

Apparently, the taoiseach was impressed with New York’s 311 service when he visited the city earlier this year, and thinks it’s an idea worth copying.

‘The Irish Government is planning to introduce the number in an effort to improve customer services,’ according to the Irish Independent report today.

I’m not a customer, I’m a citizen dammit, but let’s ignore the inappropriate use of the market terminology and think about the idea.

Anyone who has spent any time at all trying to phone a company is familiar with the maze of phone menus that have to be negotiated before speaking to a live human being.

Now think about how many services the government provides.

By one estimate, there may be as many as a thousand quangos out there, in addition to the multitude of services provided by civil servants who haven’t been hived off to other agencies.

That’s a lot of multiple choice options to press once you dial the One Number.

Not to mention the problems once someone decides speech recognition phone menus would be a good idea.

Let’s hope there’s some catchy muzak while the nation is put on hold.

Published by Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and tweeter, yet still finds himself underemployed. Go figure.

2 replies on “Your Call Is Important To Us”

  1. Easy (and prudent) to be cynical, Ger, and it’s true that all is in the execution. But everybody I spoke to about 311 when I visited NYC this past summer raved about the concept, and they were pretty taken with the execution as well.

    And yes, the governance of NYC is probably at least as complex as that of Ireland. No surprise there, really, as the city’s population is more than twice that of the Republic, though granted the city’s foreign policy-related expenses are probably minimal (unless the foreign entity in question is Albany).

    Bottom line: with a significant outlay in imaginative planning, a moderate outlay in expense and a minimal outlay in effort, this sort of thing could work quite well.

  2. Bottom line: with a significant outlay in imaginative planning, a moderate outlay in expense and a minimal outlay in effort, this sort of thing could work quite well

    Well yes, but this is Ireland we’re talking about. Can you really see a significant outlay in imaginative planning in anything here? There’s one government number I’ve had occasion to call several times in the last several months. The guy at the other end is only available two mornings a week, never answers his phone, and doesn’t even have a voicemail to leave a message. In another case, I have left a voicemail once a week every week since September, and have still to receive a reply.

    I have no doubt that it could work well. I doubt very much it will work at all.

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