I am a greedy user of the Internet, and I feel this greed is good. Whats bad are the glitches I constantly have to deal with.
When Wingspan.com was launched, the press coverage was extensive and the owners went overboard with expectations. I was skeptical of Internet banking by any name, even if they called it a rose, but I felt I had to try Wingspan.
After spending three or four minutes at a cumbersome Web site, I got a message that said, This session cannot be completed; try again later.
I didnt, but I called customer service and they didnt have a clue. As it turned out, they made an entry in a trouble report, and I got the impression that they were used to filling out trouble reports.
A very large bank bought a catchy dot-com name and paid millions for it. Six months after the purchase I tried to use the site, because the buyer was my bank of record. The site wasnt ready for use, and the message did not sound encouraging as to when opening day would occur. Even the grammar was bad. It sounded like the jotting of an overworked techie who needed a nap and a hot meal. Clearly this was a work in process, but the doors were wide open to real customers and prospects.
My Internet brokerage company went full-bore electronic a few weeks ago. The first trade I made after the switch produced an e-mail telling me where to go to see the record. I was instructed to key in 148 characters after the www. When I called customer service to offer my standard You gotta be kiddin, the kid didnt believe me. He said, Ignore it just go to eServices.
But why do you throw all that stuff at us if it is to be ignored? I dont know. What are other customers saying? Im new here and yours is my very first call. Have a nice career.
The intent to go electronic is good. The implementation was bad. For example, the electronic version did not contain all the valuable information that the paper record contained. And why is it valuable? Hello? Have you ever heard of the IRS? The paper people had it right. The electronic people should have copied the paper record exactly, but they got creative.
My interest in bank technology companies is real. I need to know about it for my work with clients, and vendors should be eager to inform me, because they can sell through me.
I thought the method of sending e-mail questions to an info@ address would work for me, because I use the Internet during weird hours. But I dont think I ever got an answer from an info@. A couple that I still remember (SAP and PeopleSoft) are generic software vendors that have tried to break into banking and should have been interested in my request.
The last time I tried info@, I went to a software company that had recently been spun off by a major outsourcer. I got a reply, but it took nine days and was just a promise to answer. I wrote this article on the 25th day and was still waiting, but my client had moved ahead sans one vendor.
I know these gripes sound picky, but is it too much to ask that companies use their own Internet stuff before they release it to customers? Sometimes it seems that everything I use on the Internet is still in beta test.
Maybe dot-coms should create a new position chief glitch officer. These CGOs would be guided well by my sixth-grade teachers refrain: You know better than that; youre just being careless.
Mr. Gillis is the founder and owner of Computer Based Solutions Inc. of Dallas, a consulting and research firm.