Two ways to serve customers

Over the past several months, I've had countless discussions with recruiters in a number of different countries, as we've been working to figure out what the next chapter in our lives is going to look like - and where it will unfold.

Out of all the headhunters I've exchanged email and had phone or in-person conversations with, two have really stood out for their remarkable approach to serving me, their client. One blew me away for all the right reasons; the other...? Well, I'll get to that.

First, the superstar.

Way back in June of this year, I dropped a note of introduction and my C.V. into the inbox of Liz Snell, one of the principals at Goddard Gadd in the UK. In less than 24 hours, Liz responded with a gracious and encouraging note.

Over the next few days and weeks I had a number of conversations with members of Liz's excellent team. Every discussion was productive, enjoyable, and rewarding. We didn't end up doing anything together in the end (my fault, not theirs), but the entire experience of dealing with Goddard Gadd as a potential client was a thoroughly positive one.

One point in particular impressed me no end. Within a week of my first email exchange with the Goddard Gadd team, I received in the mail a beautifully-presented, hand-written follow up note, wrapped in with some of their corporate marketing materials. Terrific.

On the purely speculative assumption that I might, at some point, be able to earn them a good commission if they were able to steer me into a well-paid gig in the UK, they took the time and spent the money to send me a physical pre-emptive little "thank you" note. Their marketing materials, btw, are really well produced - but the quality and the cost of the materials in this case is immaterial (ouch - sorry). Really - it's the thought that counts.

It must be five months since I spoke to anyone at Goddard Gadd, but the positive impression they created is still strong in my mind. Good karma. The whole experience is banked away in my "people to repay" file. If it's in my power to help these guys succeed at some point in the future, I'll do all I can.


Now, the dog. Grrrrrrrr...

About a month earlier than my first email discussion with Goddard Gadd, I had tried to contact one of the executive search firms in Toronto. I was sending out tons of these emails at the time, and making many, many phone calls. This particular one was a little different, as an old friend had given me a personal referral to one of the principals of the firm in question (who shall remain nameless for the moment - why should I send them any linky-love?).

I dropped them an initial note not unlike the one I'd sent to Goddard Gadd, with the key difference being that I also shamelessly dropped the name of our mutual contact - hoping that would help... um... lubricate things. I always hate doing this kind of thing; just feels so fake and uncomfortable. Still, we do what we must to put food on the table.

Didn't get any kind of a response to this email, so over the course of the next three weeks I sent a couple of follow ups and left three voicemails for the guy I was trying to reach.

Gets to the point, after a while, you just think, "screw it".

Getting on for a month after I'd sent the first email, I found a job ad in one of the local newspapers - a job I really liked the look of. The recruiter contact was the same guy I'd been trying to reach at that certain firm of headhunters. So I pinged him again, with what I thought was a pretty well put-together argument for why they should interview me.

Nothing. Zip. Two more emails, five phone call attempts. Not a sodding word in response.

No big deal, really. As anyone who has been on the job hunt for any length of time knows, having your approaches ignored is the norm. It's insanely bloody frustrating and just plain wrong, but it's the norm.

Just over a month after that, when I'd already moved on and washed my mind of the thing, I got an email from the recruiter. Not something written by an actual human being, though. This was stock rejection letter version 0417B. Made me feel like firing off a little John Kador-style response: "After careful deliberation, then, and because a number of firms have found me more unsuitable, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your rejection". Heh.

OK. End of the affair that never was, I thought. Until this morning.

This morning I was blessed to receive an image-saturated, bog blocker of an HTML message from that certain executive search firm. It's a quasi-personalized bit of corporate spam, advertising some custom market research they've produced, with a link to a big fat PDF and a bunch of "thought leadership" puke.

The spam is (ostensibly) signed by that same guy I had originally tried to reach way back in early May.

Better - there's a full colour photo embedded, featuring His Unreachableness in all his smugly-grinning glory.

Sheesh, he even looks like a pompous twat. (Mind you, so do I - if you judge by the one official blog-publicity shot of me in circulation. Glass houses, &c. *cough*)

But really - how utterly lovely is this? Not a pixel of a response from you in almost six months, then your first proactive contact with me - a real potential client - is to abuse the explicit trust I placed in you by SPAMMING ME!?

What the hell does that say about your respect for my privacy? Isn't working with a recruiter supposed to be one of those things automatically covered with an implicit blanket of mutual confidentiality and trust. How can I trust you when your very first response is as crass as this?

You've taken my email address, stripped away all that annoying, too-hard-to-even-acknowledge message stuff, and chosen instead to shovel your completely uninteresting head office pontificating down my gullet.

This is MY email address and MY inbox, goddamit.

When I gave you my email address, I explicitly granted you permission to respond to my entreaties. I most certainly did NOT grant you permission, explicit or otherwise, to hose down my inbox with this inane, steamy vomitus. And where the hell is the "unsubscribe" link in your giant, glistening bolus of spam?


Look, you cretins. It's simple. Read this. That's the Canadian government's Anti-Spam Taskforce's "Recommended Best Practices for Email Marketing".

Ten simple rules; you broke at least seven of them. You would have scored higher, except for the fact that you didn't actually manage to include any naked chicks in the message.

Back when I used to do a lot of media training, one of the things I'd remind people of was a maxim drawn straight from early years as a sales guy: Every interaction is a data point – if you don’t call back, what does that say about your company?

Every point of contact with a prospective or current client is a means for them to form an opinion of your firm.

Ignore your customer for months, then drive-by spam them. Yeah, that's gonna work.


At the risk of belabouring the painfully bloody obvious, the title of this post is also the moral.

In the first example, the customer was exceptionally well served.

You could say the same of the second example, but the verb takes on a much older meaning...