How Undigital Can You Be - As Bad As 'The Times,' Perhaps?

Being digital can mean different things to different people but I think most marketers would agree on what it most certainly is not.

Anyone wondering just how undigital a news organisation should be in its customer service should go through having their subscription to The Times and The Sunday Times forcibly changed.

That's right, forcibly changed. But don't worry; you don't have to do anything, we'll just double your monthly payment for you.

Effectively, I was being told that as an early supporter of a paid subscription -- my way of supporting the simple fact that quality journalism needs financing -- I was being kicked off my initial deal. They had tried before with pointless letters that offered me little other than the opportunity to double my monthly payment. Now, however, the gloves were off and it was happening anyway.

So, I thought I may well as embrace the madness and take them up on their offer a year's ad-free subscription to Spotify, in return to committing to a year-long Times subscription. How very joined up and digital, I thought.

Here's where the fun really starts. Although I was told I'd need to call in to do this, I thought I'd check out the options online to upgrade. There wasn't one. And to make matters worse, the link to the "look at the great stuff you'll get" if you upgrade page was a broken link.

So on to the Victorian invention of the telephone -- and soon enough I'm giving my email address to confirm who I am. That doesn't work, so I have to find my subscriber number and give my billing address, as well as my email.

I talk through the options with an absolute gem of a customer services agent who, I'm sure, if we were having a chat at a dinner party with friends would roll her eyes at the very mention of the The Times' technology.

The options were limited -- pay up or have a pay freeze for a couple of months when they'd try and shift me again. I'd had enough of being moaned at to upgrade so thought I'd get down with the kids and subscribe to Spotify -- let's not forget The Times offers goal video clips from the Premier League too.

So just do it, I say -- lovely to speak to you, I say.

But what's this -- it can't be done. I have to re-register? You have to cancel one account to open another? You can't just simply click a box next to Premium, or whatever?

Apparently, not, and it's for good reason. It means the people on the phones do not have access to personal data, such as payment records, which are kept elsewhere.

It might have sounded plausible, but the lady then asked for my credit card details so she could reopen my account. This was the very same woman who was not supposed to be looking at my account details and mentioned security as an assurance for the extra effort of reading out my details again. Yet here she was, taking down my credit card details again.

I have to be honest -- I know an organisation using out of date, disconnected, siloed IT systems when I see one. Duplication of effort is normally put down to "security" or, my favourite, "data protection."

Then, I kid you not, the phones their end go down. I get a call back and we go through my payment details again and a list of warning footnotes that gave me time to grow a beard while they were read out.

Finally, though, we'd got there. Oh yes -- Spotify was to be mine. When would I get the confirmatory email, I enquired. Right away, was the encouraging answer.

All you need to do know, I was reassured, is log into The Times for the next fortnight and check our partnership subscription page for your code. It shouldn't take longer than two weeks. 

Yes, that's right. No email with the code and no forewarning. It was down to me to log in for the next fortnight to look out for a code.

I'm delighted to say, however, I found the code within minutes of upgrading, so that was fine.

But going through my experience of doubling my monthly subscription can only best be described as having all the ease and pleasure of passing a kidney stone. And this from a twenty-four-hour rolling news organisation!

Next story loading loading..