“Computer Says No”: Dealing With Big Data The Little Britain Way

“Computer Says No”: Dealing With Big Data The Little Britain Way

In this guest post, Phil Durand (pictured below), director of customer experience (CX) management at Confirmit, explains how organisations can re-program their CX to make the computer say ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’.

Phil Durand

We have all been there – that frustrating moment when an operator consulting their organisation’s computer system informs you that a service or product you want to purchase is inexplicably unobtainable – even when you know and they know and they know you know it should be.

‘Computer says no’ has become a popular meme to denote inflexible customer service from organisations which base their responses to client requests purely on information stored electronically, even if it is clearly incorrect or incomplete.

The Little Britain sketch became an instant classic because so many of us could relate to it.

The ‘computer says no’ attitude is particularly prevalent in organisations that demand staff ignore their own judgement and common sense to stick to a set script or process with little care for customer service.

Unfortunately, larger organisations with the best of intentions can also be tarred with this unhelpful brush due to internal silos that isolate data and prevent the delivery of a comprehensive customer experience.

These distinct departments – often with disparate computer systems – are unable or unwilling to integrate their data so that it is up-to-the-minute accurate and easily accessible by all.

As a result, customers are given inaccurate information that may be out of date or inappropriate to their situations.

Individually, each department may be performing optimally and hitting its targets, which can be deceptive to upper-management.

However, a broader view of the entire organisation would reveal untapped opportunities that a cohesive customer experience technology would be able to unblock.

Often, it is only the customer who can see this broader view, and it is not an attractive one.

“The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing… both hands are charming but they’ve never met.”

That is a real quote from a client, and I’ve never forgotten it because it summed up their situation perfectly.

Most frustratingly, the customer experience may purportedly be a priority throughout the organisation – through all these disparate divisions and their silos.

Because CX, in its most literal form, belongs everywhere, all the time.

But it is just not being realised where it matters most – the customer.

Does your computer say ‘no’ or ‘yes, yes, yes’?

There’s a well-known story about President John F. Kennedy visiting NASA headquarters for the first time.

While touring the facility, he introduced himself to a janitor sweeping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA.

The janitor replied: “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”

No matter how remote or small his job might be, he considered himself to be part of the much larger picture, contributing to a great common goal.

If the people within your organisation can enunciate a common goal, like NASA’s famous janitor, you are doing well.

If not, what are the warning signs that your company is not as cohesive as it should be?

Often the first hint of a problem is from good old-fashioned feedback.

Be it via an angry phone call or letter or, as is more likely nowadays, a social media post, feedback or ‘reviews’ are a vital channel to find out how your company is perceived by your clients.

It might not always be nice to hear but how many times do your customers and frontline people tell you about the process hindering the progress, rather than enabling it?

This is a valuable opportunity to use feedback as a guide to the areas where you could re-program your CX to make the computer say ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’.

Sometimes the process is there for a very good reason, but that doesn’t mean it needs to feel frustrating for those who follow it, staff and customers alike.

We also live in an age where companies grow by acquisition and many use outsourced systems and partners to support their business.

In both cases, this can mean the systems and process needed to support the customer aren’t as joined up as they could be otherwise.

Again, this is part of commercial reality and it is not going away – so how do we deal with it?

Map out the gaps

First, before you start collecting even more data, it is important to stop and plan to ensure the right information is being gathered.

That means you need to define what you are trying to achieve with your CX data by identifying the success criteria.

And rather than trying to achieve everything instantly, the most successful programs tend to be deployed in planned, achievable phases that will allow success early to help you secure organizational buy in and support.

One way to do this is to create a map for how and where you collect CX data.

The most logical method is to build a modular, stepped approach:

  • Know what actions/objectives you are trying to achieve.
  • Know which pieces of data you need to do this.
  • Know where this CX data comes from.
  • Then see if there are gaps in your knowledge base.

This is when you use your feedback channels to spot the points of frustration.

If you can fix the root causes right away, great!

But more often it’s a case of easing over the cracks to make life less painful until you can deal with the deeper issues.

Either way, work on making things easier for everyone.

Of course, there will be limits to what is possible at times, but we should not ignore those cries for help.

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