Everyday Computing, Features

LIME Paper Cuts

By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant
By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant

THE head honchos at LIME/Cable & Wireless must still be scratching their heads in disbelief. The golden plan (or maybe the green plan) to implement e-billing and charge customers for receiving paper bills went horribly wrong. On paper, that is not such a bad idea, but it was severely lacking in finesse and in implementation. How could a plan to reduce on their internal costs, to improve efficiency, and embrace technology go so wrong?

Was that project doomed from its inception? The customers’ quality expectations and acceptance criteria were missing some essential substance. The project management team could have also benefited from additional talent to avoid LIME hitting such a sour note in this ill-conceived misadventure.

Why make such missteps and misjudgements, and enrage customers and regulators? Rose-tinted glasses and blackened bottom-lines perhaps?

Consider our local economy. We are a tiny country, once previously under the pounding fists of a monopoly. We can recall an era when it cost us money to make and receive phone calls. It even cost us more money to make “trunk” calls to someone in the next village or exchange. In a tiny island, where no part is further away than 27 miles away, we were conditioned to think that there was a significant expense to the cost of providing communications infrastructure.

In the UK home of Cable and Wireless, the size of our country is comparable to some villages. Could Cable & Wireless ever justify their trunking and partition of families and neighbourhoods in a similar manner? Unlikely.

In part, the justification was that large markets overseas allowed for a discounted service to small villages and to recoup their investments. Reasonable, but somehow, despite our small size, reduced lengths of cabled and wireless links, and seemingly lower physical infrastructure investment, these automatically lead to higher overheads. Leading, of course, to higher bills on average, as compared with vastly larger and more distant markets.

Sadly, the distorted market conditions have poisoned the minds and the psyche of our people, and seem also to have blindsided the company regarding basic customer service and appreciation.

Some years ago, I was demonstrating the use of Skype to an older relative. She was truly impressed with the quality of the free video-calling service. It must have seemed like something from a James Bond movie.

I was taken aback when she asked about the cost of the Skype service. Although I said it was free, she was convinced that somehow, we had to pay LIME for that service.

Then, I glimpsed one of the harmful effects of long-term monopoly conditions on our people’s psyche.

Now, we have a company conditioned and accustomed to making its customers pay for the tiniest of services on the tiniest of islands.

Should we be surprised that there was a dominant view at LIME that we ought to pay to view paper bills, instead of being incentivised to switch to e-billing? Such power.Such hubris.Such tragedy.

LIME’s plan to reduce its costs and carbon footprint was good, even necessary. To do otherwise would be irresponsible, especially for such a large and influential company. The urge to deploy some new technology ought to be balanced by the utility of the technology, its acceptability, market conditions, and customer expectations too.

So our LIME has experienced a sharp lesson in humility, customer service and corporate responsibility. Have we learned our own lessons from this botched project? Perhaps we should be thanking the telecommunications Goliath for waking the sleeping David, in our midst. Thanks LIME!

Thanks for continuing to share your views. The author welcomes feedback at: lstville@gmail.com

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