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Small Expectations

Poor Customer Service

Never underestimate the potential of technology to create frustration...and to create the opportunity for an editorial. Having forgotten my nephew's birthday, I figured I'd better hasten to the Sports Authority up the block from my office and buy him a gift card. This should only take a minute, I thought, more than enough time to also pick up lunch and get back to my desk (yes, believe it or not, we editors usually eat lunch at our computers. But that's another story.).

No lines, the gift cards were right up front at the cash registers—perfect! The "bleep" the cash register emmitted as the cashier swiped the card (that's how it gets its stored value) sounded innocent enough. But the cashier frowned. She swiped the card again...and again. Bleep, bleep. Frustrated, she grabbed another card ...bleep...and then another cashier.

Eight cards, countless bleeps, and two cash registers later, one cashier was in the store's basement looking for a paper gift certificate, there were lines of cranky customers behind me, and the department manager was on the phone with "the help desk." When he hung up, he told me, "Oh, the whole company's system is down. They say it'll be back up in two minutes." But when the cashier emerged from her gift-certificate hunt empty handed, and the two-minute wait had stretched into 10, I knew the only way to get the system back up and running was to cry, "Uncle!" and leave the store. Looks like my nephew will have to settle for an old-fashioned check this year.

What a technology-driven customer service nightmare. Sports Authority lost a customer, I wasted precious time, other customers were inconvenienced, and employees got a preview of the fun they'll be having this holiday shopping season.

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We've-Come-A-Long-Way Department: On a happier tech front, Insurance & Technology is proud to announce the recent relaunch of its Web site, This essentially new and vastly improved Web site has been a long time in coming. Thanks to the creativity and perseverence of the entire I&T team-highlighted by the design/development efforts of art director Rob Amoroso and Webmaster Vitali Zhulkovsky, as well as director of online operations (and former I&T editor) Paul Way, now offers more information and resources that insurance technology decision-makers can use to more effectively manage all aspects of their businesses. Turn to page 14 for more information about, its special features and some of our exclusive online partners—or better yet, go to the site itself! Either way, please let me know what you think about it.

Katherine Burger, Editorial Director

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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