Computer Says No...

March 29, 2018



Those of you who remember the comedy TV show Little Britain, will certainly remember the character Carol Beer played by David Walliams who worked in various customer service roles and whose catch phrase was “Computer Says No…”.


According to Wikipedia, "Computer says no attitude", is the popular name given to an attitude in customer service in which the default response is to check with information stored or generated electronically and then make decisions based on that, apparently without using common sense, and showing a level of unhelpfulness whereby more could be done to reach a mutually satisfactory outcome, but is not.


I’m pretty sure that all of us have experienced this situation on numerous occasions but I fell prey to it recently. Let me tell you more…


One of my clients had asked me to despatch some gifts to some of her clients and business contacts just before Christmas. Each gift had been specially selected for each recipient and all had hand-written notes inside. With 25 gifts to send out to both UK and overseas addresses, this was quite a time-consuming task. To make life a little easier and to ensure that I could track the safe delivery of each parcel, I chose a particular supplier who promised everything I was looking for and at a reasonable price.


The gifts were purchased, the handwritten note was included, they were packaged up appropriately and then duly collected by the courier. As the days following collection passed, I received numerous emails updating me on the confirmed delivery of each parcel so that I could be assured that the gifts would arrive before Christmas.


All except one…


I received multiple automated emails regarding this one parcel. From expected delivery dates and times, to confirmation that the item had been delivered. The tracking information available online gave me conflicting information: sorted at depot, with local courier, delivery attempted, sorry we missed you, delivery expected tomorrow, to be returned, signature from household, with local courier, refused at delivery, with local courier… I then received an email over Christmas advising that the item had to be returned and where did I want it sending to. I replied to this email asking for it to be returned to the sender’s address (me). I then got an email from the delivery manager saying that they couldn’t send the parcel back to me as it had been successfully delivered on the 29th December.


There was nothing else for it; I had to get in touch with customer service to try to get to the bottom of where the parcel was. I opted for online chat as my contact method, thinking that this would likely be the less painful situation. I was pleased to get through to an online operator within a matter of minutes and proceeded to outline my issue, providing all the parcel numbers and tracking numbers requested. The operator informed me that the parcel was being returned to me as they had been unable to deliver it after repeated attempts. Despite my protestations regarding the amount of incorrect information I had received over the previous three weeks, the operator was adamant that the parcel was being sent back to me. After going through all the pieces of incorrect information from the online tracking and the automated emails, I was informed that ‘sometimes the data on the system is incorrect’. When I asked how she could be certain that the data stating that the parcel was being returned to me was correct, I was flabbergasted to hear that ‘it just is because that’s what the computer says’.


Oh my...

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