Yesterday’s Daily Mirror reports that Birmingham City Council‘s new £11 mn. automated telephone system, which features computerised speech recognition technology, is a massive failure for the simple reason that it cannot cope with the local Brummie accent.

Hundreds of locals have complained they are unable to get through to council services, such as the rent arrears department. To add insult to injury, when callers encounter difficulties, the recorded voice of a woman with a Geordie accent tells them: “I can’t understand that, could you please repeat it?”

Victoria Square, Birmingham, with the city council headquarters. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Indeed the system is so abysmal that each call is costing the city council – the UK’s largest local authority – the equivalent of £4.

Last year the council axed its call centre, which used to employ 55 people and contracted Capita IT Services (whose home page reads: “Capable. Our experts are able to create improved business performance with our customers”. Ed.) to supply the new, unusable system.

Could this be a sister company of Capita Translation and Interpreting, the outfit responsible for the court interpreting fiasco (posts passim)?