Many years ago, in a parallel universe not far from here, I was involved in a CRM ‘proof of concept’. This involved producing a demonstration of a callcenter application accessing customer and product data from disparate legacy systems in a polished, unified, modern user interface.

The scenario was pretty standard fare. A motor insurance company where a customer calls in to renew his motor policy and the callcenter agent walks through a standard ‘question-answer-retort’ guided dialogue.

The demo climaxes in a superb cross-sell to add the customers son who has just turned 17 as a named driver to the existing policy (the pre-sales guy was positively orgasmic about this addition) with a substantial discount as part of some campaign.

Now, choosing names is very important so of course the demo initially used dead pop stars, politicians, historic figures, alternative comedians and footballers. This was mainly because the marketing guy thought TEST USER wouldn’t impress the CEO’s of blue chip companies.

The initial novelty of using celebrity names soon wore off as we struggled to make the software components actually do what we wanted. In fact, we were desperately tired of the endless repetitions of the dialogue (‘Take 369’), that we were completely oblivious to the names appearing.

We were just hoping and praying just that the demo behaved and ran through to completion without an hourglass, a blue screen or an unexpected ‘cross-sell’ opportunity emerging from the ‘Home, Buildings & Contents’ division.

Finally, the proof of concept was finished, we were exhausted and the demanding marketing man was (finally) happy.

Imagine our surprise, a few weeks later when he returned with two complimentary CD’s. ‘Great job guys. The Sales MD was absolutely delighted and thinks this collateral will really help us make that breakthrough into SME in Q3. I thought you might be curious to see the fruits of your labour.’

So we thanked him, waved goodbye, then sat down to watch the CD. We were both genuinely dumbfounded when the following words, spoken in best BBC English, came out of the tinny PC speaker:

‘Norman Whiteside of Manchester is looking for a competitive quote for his car insurance. '