Birmingham & Black Country

Brummie accent baffles automated phone service

An automated phone system has been taken out by Birmingham city council because it did not recognise the Brummie accent, a councillor has said.

Mike Leddy said: "I'm a born and bred Brummie, and it didn't recognise my voice, it was frustrating."

The council said the service did not have a problem with accents but struggled to accurately recognise some numbers and letters in postcodes.

It said the system, which people called to pay rent, was removed in October.

Mr Leddy said he would spend up to 30 minutes each time he tried to get through to the council's rent arrears team.

He said he had campaigned for many months to get the phone system taken out.

'Person not computer'

"I talk the way Shakespeare wrote, that's how I look at it, and if they can't get Shakespeare and his accent right then heaven help us," he said.

"I don't mind some mechanism but we really do want to have a conversation with a person rather than a computer."

The city council said the postcode voice recognition service, which it had used since March 2010, was removed as part of an upgrade.

It said it followed some "initial teething problems with the recognition of the combination of numbers and letters in postcodes, rather than being an issue with accents".

A city council spokesperson said: "The system now provides an improved, more accessible menu of options, enabling tenant enquiries to be dealt with more quickly and efficiently."

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