A Customer Experience and Lead-Nurturing Horror Story

What you are about to read really happened. It illustrates why companies need to pay better attention to the customer experience and why marketing — or a dedicated customer experience function — needs to have visibility into all points of communication with customers and prospects.

About two months ago, I received an email from Ronnie, a salesperson at a call center technology provider. I’m sure he was emailing me because I had previously filled out a form to obtain a white paper. I read and deleted the email because EMI doesn’t handle provisioning or recommending call center technology and I felt that talking to the sales person would be a waste of both our time. A few weeks later, Ronnie sent another email; he speculated that I “might have overlooked” his previous email and again asked for a meeting. I know how not getting a “no” answer can be a drain on a salesperson’s time, so I decided to write back to Ronnie:

Hello Ronnie,

I didn’t overlook your last email…I read it and deleted it. But kudos to you on your persistence. The reason I deleted the email is that we are not in the business of using or even recommending to clients contact center technology. If a need should ever arise, I’ll look you up.

Good luck and good hunting.

Imagine my surprise — and by surprise, I mean aggravation — when two days later I received another email from Ronnie, this one more insistent than the last:

Trying to reach you. Can we schedule a call?

That’s the whole email. Makes you want to be a customer, right? I wrote back to Ronnie in a tone much less considerate than that of my previous email, explaining I had in fact responded to his earlier email and he should not email me again.

Guess what happened three weeks later? That’s right, another email from Ronnie — exactly the same as his second one. Needless to say, he got another email back from me, fuming. Now the (somewhat) happy ending to the story is that Ronnie finally got the message (literally and figuratively) and responded very apologetically, which restored a bit of my faith in Ronnie and his company. But some significant damage was done.

What this story illustrates is how detrimental a lack of coordination and oversight in customer communications can be. This situation might have been avoided if sales email outreach were templatized and triggered by a lack of response by a customer. Obviously there was a template involved (hence the exact same wording in the second and fourth Robbie emails), but the triggering mechanism failed. Moreover, even if I hadn’t been furious about the lack of recognition of my replies, I would have been turned off by the fact that the second and fourth emails were exactly the same; if you’re going to create templates, create multiple templates for different stages in the sales process and don’t repeat their use.  Email templates in the sales process should follow a logic that assumes consumption by the recipient and seek to respond to that consumption/lack of response by changing the messaging and/or offer. While there is always the potential for innocent human error, the objective of lead nurturing should be to make the entire process as automated and mistake-proof as possible to maximize the impact (and also reduce the burden on sales to compose and send the emails).

I hope Ronnie learned a lesson, but did his company — or is some other Ronnie destined to make the same mistakes that could cost the company a real prospective customer?