Computer Says No

An article by Ian Graham of Swayed Greyhound about getting things right for the customer

Recently I had to hire a car, something that I do frequently as I travel a great deal to work. I always use the same company a well-known national chain boasting customer service from across the pond. I always use the same branch as its only 10 minutes walk from my house so it’s convenient.

Lately I am seeing different faces each time I visit the branch due to a high turnover of staff caused by the requirement to work long hours six days per week. On this occasion I walked into the branch and saw another new face engaging with a lady who seemed upset and anxious. As I patiently sat and waited the story unfolded in front of me. She had come from southern England (I live in the north), had got up very early to get a train to Newcastle and then a train out to the town where I live and then walk from the train station to the car hire branch to pick up a car so she could drive out into the countryside where her client was based.

When I arrived the young man behind the desk was informing her that the booking was not on the system. So what did he do? Well he looked at his PC again, pressed and clicked lots of buttons and helpfully informed the lady again that she wasn’t on the system. As you can imagine this wasn’t what the lady wanted to hear. So what did he do? Instead of looking for solutions the young man continued with his clicking buttons strategy and not actually doing anything to try and ensure that this lady left happy.

I was relaxed and was not in any hurry as I did not need the car until later in the day but after about 15 minutes, my patience gave out. I spoke to the lady asked where she was going and once I’d found this out told her exactly how long that would take, what would route she should take and that she had plenty of time to sort this out and get there. I turned to the young man and suggested that she take my car and I could wait till later in the day? With this offer what did he say? You guessed it! ‘She’s not on the system’! I suggested that it was perhaps more important to the customer to get to see her client and he agreed.

Sometimes it’s better to satisfy the customer and worry about the administration later after all it’s only a system. How many times have you been in a ‘computer says no’ situation? The lady was delighted with my solution, she did not care that she wasn’t on the system and was happy to hire the car on her credit card and start a new booking. She said ‘what is important is that I get to see this client I can always get the money back later.’

What a shame that the young man behind the desk didn’t spot this. Remember when you’re engaging with the customer it’s what’s important to the customer that’s important not what the system says.

Sometimes we forget it’s humans dealing with humans.