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Are you a Digital Peasant?

Thoughts from BAIS insurance technology CEO David Hampton


I came across a term recently in an English newspaper in Thailand that intrigued me: “Digital Peasant”. I’d never heard this term before, and it seems it’s not a very well used expression. But I read the article and I could relate to it!


Once upon a time, most of us were rural peasants, working hard to survive and working largely for the “lord of the manor”. The industrial revolution and education pulled us away from the plough and garden and provided us with the means to become part of the middle class, collectively wielding financial, political and social clout. Things had changed. We could get things done by using our contacts, influence and ingenuity. Events such as global pandemics provided peasants with the opportunity to take advantage of labour shortages to get paid more and make a better life. Those that strived hard were finally able to get ahead and get things done through influence, wealth or knowledge.


Moving into the digital revolution however, things appear to be pulling most of us back towards peasantry. It’s easy to get things done if what you are trying to do is “standard” and you conform to the process that the goods/service provider requires. If you are buying online, then as long as you complete all the data entry requirements, you are most likely to get a reasonable result.


However, if you are trying to do something non-standard, or doing something that is revenue neutral or negative for the supplier, then you are likely to encounter difficulties. You can end up in endless automated voice response processes, or find yourself stuck in a website without a contact phone number in order for you to get to talk to someone. It is hard, and sometimes impossible, to rectify issues without spending a lot of time and frustration.


The problem is that it doesn’t matter who you are or how much wealth you have, you will be treated the same…… as a peasant. Wait in the queue, who cares if it takes you half a day because you are nothing to us really, other than a peasant consumer, just like everyone else!

With the advent of complicated CRM systems, I always thought that these applications would recognise and reward longstanding relationships with better prices and better solutions/products/services. Alas, it seems that the more profit you make for the service provider, the less you get cared for. We all know special deals are always offered to first time customers, not long-standing ones. I’ve been banking with the same bank for over 50 years.


I’ve had multiple products, lazy money in bank accounts, but nobody has ever called me to say because I am a long-standing customer, then I get a better deal. We all now stand in the same digital queues as everybody else, trying to make things happen. It’s painful.


We recently spent 4 years trying to sort out the gas account for my 90 year-old Mum. We had built her a new house, but for 4 years, the gas company refused to send her a bill. When she finally got a bill for over $800, which she paid immediately, she got a letter addressed to “The Consumer” saying her gas was going to be disconnected. I estimate that we would have spent over 20 hours on the phone, waiting in endless queues over the last 4 years.


What a joke. We all felt like peasants.


I’m hoping that with the advent of AI we can get back onto the road of good service, sympathetic providers and, if you have to deal with a person, people that want to help you.

The work we have done creating the BAIS insurance technology digital workbench has certainly indicated that AI can make a positive difference to brokers and underwriting agents in all these areas, if set up correctly, helping them deliver better customer service and at the same time delivering efficiency savings – something of a holy grail.


In the meantime, most large organisations are treating us like digital peasants in a world where it’s becoming harder and harder to get ahead! Making things happen saps us of energy when things go wrong. I’m tired of being a digital peasant and want to find a better way.


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