and absolutely NOT the right way

Those who enjoyed the Daily Paradox ‘Rejoice – and write a letter’ (18Feb19) may be interested in the following piece demonstrating a lost opportunity and a failure to engage. Quite coincidentally, about the time I sent my modest donation to Lady Margaret Hall and got such a sensitive reply to it, I also wrote to Comitti, a well-known clockmaker in London. My grandson, Tim, had expressed an interest in designing a new sort of clock, something very much after my own heart.

On the ‘contact us’ page of clockmaker’s website I explained that my ancestor was John Bittleston, of High Holborn, the maker of a very curious astronomical watch. Bittleston had been quite a well-known clockmaker in London in the 18th Century and my engineer grandson is interested in designing a modern timepiece with up-to-date instruments, in collaboration with an established clockmaker. I indicated that I was keen on this and would probably be willing to finance at least a substantial part of the cost.

I got a polite reply from the sales manager saying that she attached their brochure and pointing out that VAT would be deducted from the price if delivered to Singapore but that there would be a shipping charge. All very practical but not what I wanted to hear. So what did I want to hear? I wanted to hear a note of enthusiasm, however brief, about my vicarious relationship with clock making. I wanted her to say they were interested to learn about it, perhaps even interested to talk about it. What she – by default – told me was that they were not.

Her email ended “Please let me know if I can be of further assistance to you. I hope we might have an opportunity to make a piece for you.” That tells you everything, doesn’t it? She had either read my request and ignored it or not really read it at all. I suspect the latter. What a sad waste of an opportunity. What a pity that she didn’t get her boss to take an interest. But perhaps the final line of her email told me the problem. She said “NB I am not in the office on Mondays.”

I do not wish to upset the job of someone who I am sure is a very nice person and who I expect works under pressure, as we all do. But I think the response is really indicative of a culture of ‘sell more but don’t waste time engaging with clients’. If this were an isolated case I would probably put it down to one person finding life tough at present. Sadly, it is not uncommon. A question that does not fit the predetermined list of replies or is not algorithmically compatible gets the equivalent of a brush-off. Such sales behaviour will not compensate for Brexit losses.

As you would expect, my ancestor clockmaker can be found on the internet. It takes about 30 seconds to locate him. Taking the trouble to do so, expressing an interest, asking a couple of relevant questions might have taken another few minutes. For want of that effort, Comitti have lost a potential investment and a potential sale.

Still, I suppose I should be grateful.

An algorithmic answer might have tried to sell me a military tank.

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