Sally Latimer-Boyce

As consumers, we encounter technology on a day-to-day basis.  Almost without exception, the person serving us at the store or petrol station is doing so with the help of an electronic device.  The objective of the equipment is far and wide – but essentially it is designed to enhance the consumer experience and improve the productivity of the company providing the service.  


Delighting customers these days is no longer dependent solely upon the personality and spirit of the employee assigned to serving you.


But just how much onus should we place on the equipment, and can we really afford to design out all traces of human intervention in the name of productivity?


I recently reserved a hotel room.  At the point of booking, I asked for breakfast and dinner to be included.   After I had checked in, I visited the restaurant.  After referring to the screen of her ordering system, the waitress informed me that the meal package I had paid for included a choice of wine or beer. 


I rarely drink alcohol, so I asked if I could have a soft drink instead. After several taps on her screen the waitress declined my request on account that “the computer won’t let me do that.”   I presumed she would then add “but let me see what I can do” but alas no.  To my astonishment this was her final thought on the subject, because the computer had essentially said no.


Whilst the computer system she was using did not afford her the flexibility needed to change the transaction on screen, it was not unreasonable of me as the customer to request that she overrule it.


The introduction of IT equipment was never intended to replace the art of decision-making.  Of course reducing the need for employees to make decisions in a process-driven environment can be very effective, but (as this example demonstrates) if this is taken to the extreme it can also be incredibly unproductive.


Further time was wasted when the waitress elected to call upon a manager to make the decision.  Eventually, they reluctantly agreed to provide me with a soft drink. Not quite my idea of an quality service.


Embracing technology does not mean one should abandon the responsibility to communicate as a human being.


When assigned charge of a computer, in any environment, remember that the computer is not able to make decisions.  Unlike humans, computers cannot use judgement or experience to figure out a solution.    Avoid falling into the trap of allowing the computer the final say.


Sally Latimer-Boyce
"BLOODY COMPUTERS - How to Regain Control of IT Support Costs"

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