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Negotiation is a Two Way Street

Ben Byth

In a world where we have never been more connected, somehow it feels less personal. We are overloaded with new information and messages, a bit over the phone… but mostly via emails or private messages. While this has greatly increased the average salesperson’s reach, it has come at the cost of the personal touch and ability to hear the voice of the customer.


There have been three organisations recently that I couldn’t give my money to because they weren’t interested in two-way communication. They all sent me automated messages from bots asking for my commitment, but at the same time disabled all forms of return email.


The first was a rideshare service. After taking a $168 ride, their app failed to charge my credit card, instead sending me a text every few days/weeks asking for payment. There was no option to reply to the text and seek manual intervention to process my card, only useless automated help options. The rideshare company have since cut me off. Instead of taking my call to rectify their payments processing error, they cut me off and forced me to switch providers. Not their finest hour!


The second was a social platform for professionals with a monthly subscription option. I wanted to change the credit card I use for the service but because I couldn’t figure out how to do this and there was not a clear and straight forward way to contact them… I grew frustrated and simply cancelled the service. They have sent me an email every month or so for a year since asking me to re-subscribe. I went to reply to the email offering my new credit card details but realised that the sender does not accept responses!


The third was an airline. After a series of cancelled flights on consecutive business trips, I sent the company a request for an upgrade as part of my grievance process. By the time they sent me a generic response months later, I’d already switched airlines. They missed the opportunity to satisfy my grievance by ignoring it.


Whilst I could probably resolve my issues myself through persisting with self-service options in all three scenarios, the act of sending me messages I can’t reply to has my heckles up and I dig my heels in. In all three cases there were simple issues to resolve which would have allowed me to accept their proposals. But none of the parties made themselves accessible enough to solve my problem.


What does this mean for negotiators?

  1. While it may be efficient to shift to a digital experience, be aware that you are probably missing out on opportunities and it may be harder to identify the obstacles your counterpart faces. If it were up to me, I’d be thinking about an offline process for dealing with failed proposals. There could be simple opportunities to turn rejection into acceptance. Improving conversion and loyalty will probably be cheaper than sourcing brand new customers!
  2. Finally, if you do invite correspondence, be sure to acknowledge it in a timely and authentic manner… otherwise you may as well have not bothered at all.


Happy negotiating.

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