A few years ago, British Rail had a real fall-off in business. Looking for marketing answers, they went searching for a new ad agency—one that could deliver an ad campaign that would bring their customers back.
When the British Rail executives went to the office of a prominent London ad agency to discuss their needs, they were met by a very rude receptionist, who insisted that they wait.
Finally, an unkempt person led them to a conference room—a dirty, scruffy room cluttered with plates of stale food. The executives were once again, left to wait. A few agency people drifted in and out of the room, basically ignoring the executives who grew impatient by the minute. When the execs tried to ask what was going on, the agency people brushed them off and went about their work.
Eventually, the execs had enough. As they angrily started to get up, completely disgusted with the way they'd been treated, one of the agency people finally showed up.
"Gentlemen," he said, "your treatment here at our Agency is not typical of how we treat our clients—in fact, we've gone out of our way to stage this meeting for you. We've behaved this way to point out to you what it's like to be a customer of British Rail. Your real problem at British Rail isn't your advertising, it's your people. We suggest you let us address your employee attitude problem before we attempt to change your advertising."
The British Rail executives were shocked—but the agency got the account! The agency had the remarkable conviction to point out the problem because it knew exactly what needed to change.