Friday, February 5, 2021

The Computer and Customer Service


For the first time in over a month, I am not worried about running out of heat.

Oh, I haven't gotten a new furnace or changed suppliers or even gotten an emergency delivery, although we did call a few days ago . I have just learned how the computer thinks.

The revelation didn't come from the company or a short blurb on the news, it came from listening to a disgruntled customer with another company in another part of the state. The computer said she needn't worry either. In her case, a delivery before being nearly empty was considered bad business.

So, I got out my manual, did some quick math and found out the computer was right, I had nothing to worry about. Well, at least until the point when the computer was wrong. Do you suppose the computer knows the dog door sticks when it is windy? Surely it understands the

upstairs storm window is broken this year and then there is the weather to consider. Hmm, maybe I will worry after all.

The shift to computer directed efficiency is not a bad one. The disconnect is when staff cannot step into a customer's shoes and explain how it works. Unfortunately, such breakdowns in customer service are commonplace in many computer dependent businesses.

My love affair with computers started in the late 1970s and I have owned one for all of those 40+ years. Computers are not the issue here. Somewhere along the line, we started to believe the myth. Computers cannot think, resolve customer complaints or put business policy into simple language. Moreover, blaming human inefficiency on a computer is like blaming the hammer for hitting your thumb.

It's time to remember that a computer is merely a tool. It cannot correct our mistakes or create customer loyalty – only knowledgeable human communication can do that. Perhaps businesses need to sacrifice efficiency and think like a customer instead of the other way around. Expecting customers to do the sacrificing has never seemed like a good business plan.