Who is in charge – us or the machines?

I can't believe what I just heard...

I have been dealing with an online service which sells an annual subscription to their site.  Microsoft finance prefers that I pay for such services by using a corporate PO.  In this world of online credit card transactions it turns out that this can be a complete nightmare. 

45 days ago I sent this company an email asking to establish an account with a PO.  The company was setup already as a vendor in the Microsoft accounting system which means that they should know about and understand the process for invoicing Microsoft and receiving payment.  However it appears that everybody I deal with at this company knows nothing about our process.  This is all very frustrating but now after 45 days I believe we may have resolved this.

I have not used the subscription service during these 45 days because I didn't want to use something when payment had not been made yet (our corporate procurement training specifically warns about doing this) so I asked the vendor if they would reset the start date on the account to today's date.  Here is the response I got.

"I'm sorry sir, I cannot reset the start date of your account because it is set by the system automatically."

What?!!?  Are you saying that the business rules of your software are in charge?  Are you saying that you will allow the inflexibility of your software system to trump excellent customer service?

To this I quickly responded.

"That is not an acceptable answer.  We are the people, they are the machines.  They exist to serve us and we are in charge.  I expect that the start date will be reset to today's date.  Find a way to do this."

How easily people fall into the trap of serving the machines which exist to serve us.  Don't let this be the case!  When designing software we must always provide ways for people to be in charge or else we will be held hostage to the inadequate, the mediocre, the evil of serving the machine.

Comments (1)

  1. Aaron Fischer says:

    You miss the point Ron, The real story is that someone in the company decided that all the lowly customer service agents are incompetent and therefore they will use technology to enforce policy and dis empower their employees so they cannot providing the level of customer service we deserve.

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