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BOFH: The PFY has won an award … for outstanding service?

Something's not right here

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 4 "I … You've been nominated for an … award?" the Boss announces, falteringly, as he rereads the paper in his hand.

"Me?" the PFY asks.

"Erm, yes. Apparently … uh … HR checked back with the person who nominated you – just to be sure – and they really did want to recommend you for an award."

"What award is it?" I ask. "Was it for helping people down stairs?"


"Into traffic … uh … I mean, across the road?"

"No. It's …"

"Wait a minute, is it about the bloke in the café? Because I knew he wasn't a real chef when he didn't know how much powdered glass you could hide in a …"

"It's a service award," the Boss interrupts, probably for the best. "It's for service above and beyond."

"And it's for us, you say?" I ask.

"It's for HIM," the Boss clarifies, pointing at the PFY.

"Well, I like to consider our clients as friends," the PFY says. "Not just annoying voices at the end of a phone line. I mean, some people would spend their days being annoyed by the constant interruption and the trivial and inane queries, but not me."

"It certainly seems to be the case," the Boss nods. "According to the person who nominated you, you answered … five queries in three days, each time offering a solution which both worked and gave some insight into the nature of the problem."

"True enough," I concur. "My assistant is a giver who likes to pay it forward."

"I … uh … Well, this all seems, uh, pleasantly surprising."

"Yes," the PFY says. "Once I started redirecting email queries to ChatGPT everything got a lot easier."

"Redirecting email queries to ChatGPT?" the Boss asks blankly.

"Yeah. So you open a ChatGPT session, feed it a mass of background information, append the user's query then package up the response with a reference ID in the subject line so that we can retain the context of the query for subsequent questions. The session is terminated if/when we get an email with the words 'Thank You' or 'Perfect' or 'Solved' or the like toward the bottom of the message. That whole 'Thank You' bit has some teething issues at the moment, though, but we're working through it."

"So you're not actually answering questions?"

"Of course we are. If someone asked you what the capital of Bulgaria was and you looked it up on the web and told them, surely you would be answering their question?"

"I …"

"This is the same thing – only better, because we're pipelining the solution to the user directly instead of involving a middle man."

"What about all your phone queries?"

"The Operations phone system is unfortunately having issues," I chip in, "and if anyone asks we're devoting a considerable amount of time to diagnosing the problem. We put a message on voicemail directing users to email – which we'll respond to if we have free time."

"So you're not working on the phone system at all?" the Boss asks.

"Oh, we're definitely working on the phone system!" the PFY blurts. "We're working on a voice gateway into ChatGPT. The problem we're currently trying to address is how to maintain context. We thought we might be able to do it with a combination of calling number and voice recognition, but we've since decided that we're just going to answer the phone as a different person each time."

"You've … lost me."

"OK," I say. "If your mouse doesn't work and you call me I'll tell you to check the battery. If you call me back and say 'it's not the battery' I'll know it's about your mouse – unless a considerable amount of time has passed – because I have the context of your previous call. If you called me back and I had no idea what you were talking about, you'd think I had Alzheimer's – which is another option we considered – or you might sniff rodent. HOWEVER, if the PFY answered instead of me and you said 'It's not the battery' he'd ask 'What's not the battery?' and you'd replay your interaction with me to give him context. So OUR plan is to have the phone answered by a different 'person' – that is, voice – each time it's answered. So the first call will be answered by 'my assistant' and the second call by 'me' and subsequent calls by 'Karl' or 'Nigel' or 'Karen' or 'Steve' or 'Lisa' et cetera until we run out of digitized voices – at which point we'll circle around to the PFY again."

"And if all of this works, you'd still expect to be paid for doing your job?" the Boss asks.

"Of course."

"I think HR might have something to say about that. You're not even working."

"I'm sure they'll be OK with it – you know, the whole capital of Bulgaria thing. Sofia, by the way."

"We'll see," the Boss says drily, wandering off.

… ten minutes later …


"Hello, you're speaking with Stephen," the PFY says.

"I checked with HR and you can't use a bot to do your job."

"Many companies use bots to perform repetitive or menial tasks. In many cases bots perform routine tasks better than human beings."

"I'll be the judge of that, thank you!" the Boss snaps.

"You're welcome."



"Hello, you're speaking with Simon."

"I was just talking to Stephen and he hung up on me."

"There was probably a reason that Stephen hung up on you. Did you say something to him which upset him, or were you rude?"

"No, I was a perfect gentleman!"

"You're welcome."



"Hello, you're speaking with Karl."


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