Worcester Community Housing. Progress House. 29.05.13. 12.30pm.
Pete, a dashing hero with a strong jaw and hairline, disinterestedly eats a jam sandwich at his desk. He scans his computer screen which currently displays the Clearview Customer Engagement suite. His eyes dart over the data with the keenness of a hawk seeking his prey. A small discrepancy catches his attention. Initially dismissing it he takes another bite of his sandwich, not realising that too much of the filling has oozed from the underside. He turns back to the computer, inexorably drawn to this minor fault which now has his full attention. His jaw drops.
Involvers... We have a problem.
The team around him immediately focus upon his every word. They know only too well that if Pete has chosen to expend valuable time and air upon a subject then they are truly blessed to be the aural recipients.
TEAM MEMBER 1 (dialogue):
What is it Pete, you incredibly handsome and all round good egg?
Pete turns to the team, face ashen.
I see dead people!
Team Member 1 faints. Pete turns back to the screen. The jam filling of the sandwich that has oozed to the crust has reached critical mass. It falls from the sandwich to the floor.
To a casual observer it would appear as if blood.
The events of this screenplay are based on a true story. They depict the actual events of last Wednesday when my greatest fear became a reality. For years I had hoped it would never come to pass; gripping the rosary so tightly that my knuckles turned white as I prayed to never see the day... But it had been in vain... The day was upon us... The dead were rising from the grave.
Ok, maybe no-one was literally dragging themselves from their eternal rest... And maybe no-one wanted to sink their rotting teeth into my gorgeous and succulent flesh... But even a cursory glance at the Clearview Customer Engagement suite that lunchtime was enough to show that there were customers live on the system who no longer had active tenancies.
This sent a chill down my spine. In the bad old days before we had the software we had been entirely reliant on a large number of spreadsheets to hold details of our involved customers. It was to these that we turned every time we needed to send out invitations for one of our activities. Yet these spreadsheets were independent of our housing management system, meaning they were in constant need of data cleansing in order to maintain accuracy.
Unfortunately there was not always enough time to thoroughly check these spreadsheets and, even when there was, accidents would still happen. As anyone working in Customer Involvement will tell you we are naturally subject to the Law of S*d... If an accident is going to happen, then it will inevitably happen in the worst possible way.
Although tenancies may end for any number of reasons, this scenario would always mean that we would send a letter to an individual that had recently passed away. Even thinking about this ties my stomach up in knots. There is nothing worse than carrying out a role that requires you to act as the friendly face of the organisation, only to realise that it was you (and you alone) that has caused unnecessary upset to an already suffering family grieving the loss of a loved one.
It is a terrible feeling. One which should never happen in any modern, customer facing organisation that works closely within a local community. However, so common had these 'Never Events' become that they were one of our principle arguments for wanting the Customer Engagement suite in the first place!
The fear I felt last Wednesday was ultimately unfounded. There had indeed been a gremlin (rather than a zombie) in the system but we picked up on the issue long before we were ever in danger of sending out letters that could have potentially caused distress. Yet it reawakened difficult memories of past mistakes that I will be glad to never repeat. I know a number of organisations don't believe that having a consistently up to date data source for their customer involvement teams is a matter of life and death. I disagree.