If we spend it, they will use it is the mantra of many a company when it comes to IT investment. But it’s just not true. According to a study by Accenture, 75 per cent of vendors say they believe automated systems are providing, ‘above average’ service to their customers. Some 74 per cent say CRM technology has directly led to higher customer satisfaction, while 77 per cent reckon self-service CRM systems have a positive impact on their business.

However, 42 per cent of customers report that they have to access CRM channels multiple times to resolve a problem, while 61 per cent say automated service systems doesn’t speed resolution. Only 13 per cent of customers believe the ability to resolve their own problems with online CRM was a valuable capability for them. It’s a prime example of a company believing that because it’s spent so much money on fancy new technology that it now ‘does’ good CRM and that its customers are sheep who will put up with just about anything.

For the past few weeks I’ve been receiving strange calls from NatWest. I pick up the phone and there’s a Dalek on the other end – a robot voice that begins to tell me that it has something urgent to discuss with me, before then giving a sort of strangled electronic burble. This happened several times a day for a fortnight until the phone rang and a flesh and blood human being was there. It seemed the reason that the NatWest Dalek had been on my trail was that I had missed a payment on my card – of around £10. I asked her why it had taken two weeks for a human to call? After all, isn’t NatWest the one that advertises that you get to talk to people and that your local branch doesn’t get turned into a wine bar? Oh, I don’t know, she simpered. So when do the robots get put on your case, I asked. Oh, I don’t know, she simpered. Why does the message give up before it’s completed, I asked. Oh, I don’t… well, you get the picture. Then she hung up.

She rang back 20 seconds later, apologised for cutting me off, then told me I’d have to go through her security questions again. I pointed out that we’d done this already, she had hung up on me and that she’d just rung me back, so clearly it was me. Oh it’s procedure, she burbled. Realising that I’d get more human freewill and logic from a Dalek, I hung up. From NatWest’s point of view, presumably it was money well spent: a dysfunctional Dalek who escalates the problem to a no doubt well-meaning, but basically hapless, call centre girl two weeks later. But from my point of view, I’m irritated, angry and harassed. Bad CRM.

Well said that man! Only 30 per cent of government technology-based projects are successful, according to Joe Harley, CIO at the Department for Work and Pensions. “Why shouldn’t it be 90 per cent successful?” he asked at a recent government computing conference.

Harley noted that public sector IT costs £14 billion a year, equivalent to 75 hospitals or 7,000 primary schools or 600,000 nurses or more than three million state pensions paid. That really should be something for Gordon Brown to think about – and hopefully he will thank Harley for his candour.

I suspect, however, he might come to regret his words once the Whitehall spin machine gets going. After all ministers are still insisting that the NHS IT Programme is money well spent, despite revelations that many computer systems in the NHS are so out of date that some Trusts have had to buy parts for them from eBay as the NHS IT Programme delays mean they have to source their own new systems, according to an independent research project carried out by King’s College and Imperial College in London, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the University of Bristol and published by the British Medical Journal.

The study found that hospitals were left relying on outdated patient information systems and some were considering buying interim programmes and technology from eBay while they wait for the agency responsible for IT procurement, Connecting for Health, to deliver on its promises.