Get rid of ‘the computer says no’

Dewi Van de Vyver

CEO of the digital innovation company Flow Pilots

Failures in digital platforms lead to great frustration among consumers.

I’ve pretty much had it with all the hype around platforms, online services and automation. Rarely – never say never – do you read messages about the anomalies and errors that people encounter on a daily basis. I’m talking about ‘the computer says no’, the moment when the platform doesn’t work and you as a consumer get lost in the ‘system’.

A recent example of frustration. On vacation, I wanted to order an e-book through the Bol.com Kobo app. Well, it’s not via the tablet. You must buy a book on your computer. I had to blink my eyes a few times. It is very confusing that a giant like Bol.com does not have an end-to-end omnichannel approach. And when I finally had that book, the app turned out to display the pages incorrectly. I’m already looking forward to my conversation with the chatbot to get that ebook refunded.

The garbage

Do you also think that things need to change urgently? Then you are on the same wavelength as our opinion makers. We asked them how much fun you throw in the trash.

I also got frustrated at the website of a start-up sports brand. I ordered and paid but did not receive a confirmation email of my purchase and no email to tell me where my order was. The mail engine was broken. In addition, there was an issue with the chatbot that put me in a loop. And customer service was only available between 10am and 4pm and there were always ‘four people waiting for you’.

You can classify these two events as junk problems. And the hassle of an e-book and sportswear is actually not immediately life-threatening. But it’s terrible that you waste so much time trying to figure everything out.

And I have not yet told about my communication with DKV. According to the insurance company, I still owe an amount of 32 euros for my hospitalization insurance. He has already sent me four physical letters threatening to kick me out of the hospital insurance. However, the missing payment is only found in their system because the software did not establish the connection between my payment and the invoice. In the meantime, I’ve called, emailed, taken pictures and downloaded excerpts as evidence. The result was another letter in which DKV threatens a lawyer and even more costs. Anyway, you get the picture.

Quick fix

The lack of proper customer service is nothing new. And the thoughtless and poorly executed automation is increasingly leading to a ‘computer says no’ situation. Collectively, we sometimes put a saw over it. Ironically, this is also where many tech start-ups have their origins: in the frustration of poor service.



If the process is not properly organised, then automation is the fastest route to ‘customer service lost in digitalisation’.

Companies see a quick fix in the digital service platform. It helps bear the burden of requests and complaints and enables them to eliminate rising staff costs. The platform is then presented with great bravado and received with applause: from now on everything will go better. It actually solves a lot of things for ‘the happy flow’. But not everything is happy. In many cases, the company shifts the problem from itself to the customer.

You become the one in the ‘unhappy flow’, where the fine voice at the other end tells you that your order, payment, hospital insurance, bank account, pension, medical record, plane ticket or luggage cannot be found in ‘that system’. If the process is not properly planned and written out (even in case of irregularities), then automation is the fastest way to ‘customer service lost in digitalisation’.

If the digitally illiterate still want to make a difference in the digital world, let it be in consumer protection against ‘the computer says no’.

Leave a Comment