Train Crash Intraction

Train crash customer care

Intraction - intractable interaction. My typo seems to work in this example, where I attended a webinar on a new software as a service product. There was some follow-up in the emails below. There are no prizes for spotting the errors which were sadly not deliberate except they were not thought of as errors. It gets worse later. But for now, read the emails – addresses redacted. Remember, I’m a potential customer, trying to have a 10-minute chat.

Email trail

From: Vivienne R

Sent: 30 March 2017 08:04

To: Nick Hixson

Subject: RE: call

Importance: High

Good morning Nick

I trust the call scheduled for this morning at 10.00am is still convenient for you.

Please note, however, that there has been a change to the person who will be talking to you today. One of our senior Account Managers, Neil W…., is now available at this time and will be speaking to you

Kindly use these updated dial in details to access the call:

Dial a phone number and enter access code, or connect via internet. (there was no internet option)

By phone:

United Kingdom - London   +44.20.1234.5678

Access Code   353-423-332#

Kind Regards


From: Nick Hixson []

Sent: 30 March 2017 08:36

To: Vivienne R

Subject: RE:  call

 Fine Vivienne. All a bit corporate – why doesn’t he just call me??



From: Vivienne R

Sent: 30 March 2017 09:17

To: Nick Hixson <>

Subject: RE: call

Hi Nick

Sorry if this seems a little too “corporate”. We are obviously a professional organisation with general processes in place.

I’ve spoken to Neil and he will phone you direct at 10.00am on 01202 520010.

I trust this is acceptable.

Kind regards


From: Nick Hixson []

Sent: 30 March 2017 09:39

To: Vivienne R

Subject: RE:  call

We are obviously a professional organisation too Vivienne, but we do think it important to not let the process get in the way of the human interaction.

As I've already explained to your colleague, you may not be a good fit for us, and this seems to reinforce it, so I think that we should cancel the call and save everybody's time.



What happened next?

I got a call from senior account manager Neil! He started by apologising for Vivienne who was ”new” and didn’t understand how to act as a business development assistant. I let that go.

Without pausing for breath, Neil then launched into his standard sales patter and I found it extremely difficult to interrupt. Every time I tried explain our circumstances and how this probably was not a good fit he would wait until I had finished speaking and then start again. Everything I said was an objection to be overcome rather than listened to. I was offered a free trial so I explained that the reason before all the emails that I have not taken that up was because the trial will probably deal with all the issues we have and they would never make any money from us. Nevertheless, Neil persisted. Now I don’t even want the trial.

What should they have done?

Simply do the reverse of everything they did and they (and you) will be fine. Don’t treat sales as though they are simply transactional, listen to your customers, work in ways which fit them (why was I having to call them on their sales call?). And try and build a relationship rather than just simply sell something and move onto the next.

How could this have happened?

This company is a fairly new software related start-up. So I wonder if they have grown to the point where they think they need processes because that’s what big companies have, and put them in without thinking about how that fits with their corporate culture, or how crucially with their customers.

I wonder if they have fallen into the cultural chasm which seems to bedevil quite a lot of fast-growing businesses. It’s when the initial excitement and sense of camaraderie is somewhat overtaken by the scaling of the business such that corporate life gets in the way and people become disillusioned that their dream, shared between all of them in the new exciting business, has become a little tarnished. This is well encapsulated in this Harvard Business Review article.

Vivienne is being blamed for being “new”, instead of being trained, supported and empowered. What has happened to culture and does that inform potential customers what they can expect in their future dealings? It’s all transparent, but not in a good way. So is a train crash.

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